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'^> 



MEMOIBS 



EXTRAORDINARY POPULAR DELUSIONS. 



VOLUME I. 



LONDON: 
OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL ILLUSTRATED LIBRARY, 

227 STRAND. 

18r.2. 



MEMOIES 



OF 



EXTRAORDINARY POPULAR DELUSIONS 



AND THE 



mtjum a( €xaiah. 



By CHARLES MACKAY, LL.D, 

AUTHOR OF " EGEEIA," " THE 8ALAMANDBINE," ETC. 

ILLUSTRATED WITH NUMEROUS ENGRAVINGS. 

VOL. I. 



N'en d^plaise h ces fons nomm^s sages de Gr^ce, 
En ce monde il n'est point de parfaite sagesse ; 
Tons les hommes sont fous, et malgr^ tous leors soins 
Ne difC&rent entre eux que du plus au du moins. 

BOILEAU. 



LONDON: 

OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL ILLUSTRATED LIBRARY, 

227 STRAND. 



1852. 



• « 



• • 



LONDON : 

l>RINTBD BY &UBSON, LEVEY, AND FRANKLYN, 
Great New Street, Fetter Lane. 





CONTENTS. 



-oC\«)X(»A>0>- 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 



VAOS 



Jolin Law ; his birth and youthful career— Duel between Law and Wilson— Law's 
escape from the King's Bench— The " Land-bank"— Law's gambling propensi- 
ties on the continent, and acquaintance with the Duke of Orleans — State 
r*| of France after the reign of Louis XIV. — Paper money instituted in that coun- 
Vt try by Law — Enthusiasm of the French people at the Mississippi Scheme — 
Marshal Villars — Stratagems employed and bribes given for an interview with 
vj Law — Great fluctuations in Mississippi stock — Dreadful murders — Law created 
.r comptroller-general of finances — Great sale for all kinds of ornaments in Paris 
' — Financial difficulties commence — Men sent out to work the mines on the 
, Mississippi, as a blind— Payment stopped at the bank— Law dismissed from 
y the ministry — Payments made in specie — Law and the Regent satirised in 
^ song — Dreadful crisis of the Mississippi Scheme — Law, almost a ruined man, 
flies to Venice— Death of the Regent— Law obliged to resort again to gambling 
—His death at Venice . . * 1-44 

THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 

Originated by Harley Earl of Oxford— Exchange Alley a scene of great excite- 
ment — Mr. Walpole — Sir John Blunt — Great demand for shares — Innumerable 
" Bubbles" — List of nefarious projects and bubbles — Great rise in South-sea 
stock— Sudden fall — General meeting of the directors — Fearful climax of the 
South-sea expedition — Its effects on society — Uproar in the House of Com- 
mons — Escape of Knight — Apprehension of Sir John Blunt — ^Recapture of 
Knight at Tirlemont — His second escape — ^Persons connected with the scheme 
examined — Their respective punishments — Concluding remarks . . . 45-84 

THE TULIPOMANIA. 

Conrad Gesner — Tulips brought from Vienna to England — Rage for the tulip among 
the Dutch — Its great value, — Curious anecdote of a sailor and a tulip — Regular 
marts for tulips — Tulips employed as a means of speculation — Great deprecia- 
tion in their value — End of the mania 85-92 

THE ALCHYMISTS. 

Introductory remarks — Pretended antiquity of the art — Geber — Alfarabi- Avi- 
cenna— Albertus Magnus —Thomas Aquinas -Artephius —Alain de Lisle- 
Arnold de Villeneuve— Pietro d'Apone— Ra3rmond Lulli— Roger Bacon— Pope 



IV CONTENTS. 

PAGB 

John XXII.— Jean de Meung— Nicholas Flamel— George Ripley— Basil Val- 
entine—Bernard of Treves— Trithemius— The Mar^chal de Rays— Jacques 
Coeur — Inferior adepts — Progress of the infatuation daring the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries — Augurello— Cornelius Agrippa — ^Paracelsus — George 
Agricola— Denys Zachaire— Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly — The Cosmopolite — 
Sendivogius — The Rosicrucians — Michael Mayer — Rohert Fludd — Jacoh Bbh- 

men — John Heydon — Joseph Francis Borri — Alchymical writers of the seven- | 

teenth century — Delisle — Albert Aluys — Count de St. Germain — Cagliostro — 
Present state of the science 93-221 

MODERN PROPHECIES. 

Terror of the approaching day of judgment — A comet the signal of that day — The 

prophecy of Whiston — The people of Leeds greatly alarmed at that event — 

The plague in Milan — Fortune-tellers and Astrologers — Prophecy concerning 

the overflow of the Thames — Mother Shipton — Merlin — Heywood — Peter of 

Pontefract — Rohert Nixon — ^Almanac-makers 222-241 

FORTUNE-TELLING. 

Presumption and weakness of man — Union of Fortune-tellers and Alchymists— 

Judicial astrology encouraged in England from the time of Elizabeth to ( 

William and Mary — Lilly the astrologer consulted by the House of Com- 
mons as to the cause of the Fire of London— Encouragement of the art in 
France and Germany— Nostradamus — Basil of Florence — Antiochus Tibertus 
— Kepler — Necromancy — Roger Bacon, AJbertus Magnus, Arnold Villeneuve 
— Geomancy — Augury— Divination : list of various species of divination — 
OneiroKsriticism (interpretation of dreams)— Omens 242-261 

THE MAGNETISERS. 

The influence of imagination in curing diseases — Mineral magnetisers — Paracel- 
sus — Kircher the Jesuit — Sebastian Wirdig — William Maxwell— The Con- 
vulsionaries of St. Medard — Father Hell— Mesmer, the founder of Animal 
Magnetism — D'Eslon, his disciple — M. de Puysegur — Dr. Mainauduc's suc- 
cess in London — HoUoway, Loutherbourg, Mary Pratt, &c. — Perkins's " Metal- 
lic Tractors " — Decline of the science 262-295 

INFLUENCE OF POLITICS AND RELIGION ON THE HAIR AND BEARD. 

Early modes of wearing the hair and beard — Excommunication and outlawry de- 
creed against curls — Louis YII.'s submission thereto the cause of the long wars 
between England and France — Charles V. of Spain and his courtiers— Peter the 
Great— His tax upon beards— Revival of beards and moustaches after the French 
Revolution of 1880— The King of Bavaria (1838) orders all civilians wearing 
moustaches to be arrested and shaved— Examples from Bayeux tapestry . 296-908 



LIST OF ENGRAVINGS IN VOL. I. 



FAQB 

Frontispiece — Gardens of the Hotel de Soissons. (From a print in Mr. Hawkins' 

collection.) 
Vignette — The Bubblers' Arms, Prosperity. (Bubblers' Mirror, or England's Folly) 

John Law. (From a rare print by Leon Schenk. 1720) 1 

The Regent D'Orleans . . 5 

Old Palais Royal from the Garden. (From a scarce print, circa 1720) ... 12 

Law's House ; Rue de Quincampoix. (From Ncdier's Paris) 13 

Humpbacked Man hiring himself as a Table 15 

Hdtel de Soissons. (From Nodier's Tarts) 16 

The Coach upset 18 

Murder of a Broker by Count D'Hom 21 

John Law as Atlas. {From England under t?ie House of Hanover) .... 26 

Caricature — Lucifer's new Row Barge 29 

Procession of Miners for the Mississippi .31 

The Chancellor D'Aguesseau 34 

Caricature — Law in a Car drawn by Cocks 40 

M. D'Argenson 42 

Caricature — Neck or Nothing, or Downfall of the Mississippi Company ... 44 

The South-Sea House. (From a print, circa 1760) 45 

Harley Earl of Oxford 4G 

Sir Robert Walpole 49 

Comhill. (Print, circa 1720) 51 

Stock-jobbing Card, or the Humours of Change Alley. 1720. (From the Bubblers' 

Medley) 60 

Caricature — People climbing the Tree of Fortune. (From the Bubblers' Medley) . 61 

The Gateway to Merchant Tailors' Hall. (Gateway from old print) .... 62 

Mr. Secretary Craggs 64 

Caricature — Beggars on Horseback. (From the Bubblers' Medley) .... 68 

Caricature — Britannia stript by a South-Sea Director . . , 70 

Caricature— The Brabant Screen. (Copied from a rare print of the time, in the col- 
lection of E. Hawkins, Esq., F.S.A.) 76 

Bonfires on Tower Hill 79 

The Earl of Sunderland gO 

Caricature — Emblematic Print of the South-Sea Scheme. (From a print by Hogarth) 82 

Caricature — Bubblers' Arms : Despair. (From Bubblers' Mirr<yr, or England s Glory) 84 

Conrad Gesner g5 

The Alchymist. (From print after Teniers) 93 



sr^^^m^iSm^'ma 



VI LIST OF ENGRAVINGS. 

AlbertuB Magnus 100 

Arnold de YiUeneuve 103' 

BaymondLalli 106 

Houseof Jacques Coeur at Boui^s. {From Sommerard's Al^m) .... 134 

Cornelius Agrippa 138 

Paracelsus 143 

Dr. Dee 152 

Dr. Dee^s Shew-stone and Magic Crystal. (Orig^als in the possession of Lord Londes- 

borough and British Museum) 154 

Innspruck. (From Nodier's Jhria) 181 

House of Cagliostro (Rue de Clery, No. 278), Paris 215 

Mother Shipton's House 241 

Hemy Andrews, the original " Francis Moore, physician" . . . . . . . 244 

Nostradamus. (From the frontispiece to a collection of his Prophecies, published at 

Amsterdam aj>. 1666) 246 

Serlo clipping Henry I.'s hair 296 

Peter the Great ... 301 

Bayeux Tapestry 308 



c^^^HI > ^0^''o 



^ttfut. 



In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, 
they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of 
excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. 
We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon 
one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people be- 
come simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after 
it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating 
than the first. We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest 
to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; 
another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple; 
and neither of them recovering its senses imtil it has shed rivers 
of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by 
its posterity. At an early age in the annals of Europe its popu- 
lation lost their wits about the sepulchre of Jesus, and crowded 
in frenzied multitudes to the Holy Land ; another age went mad 
for fear of the devil, and offered up hundreds of thousands of vic- 
tims to the delusion of witchcraft. At another time, the many 
became crazed on the subject of the philosopher's stone, and com- 
mitted follies till then unheard of in the pursuit. It was once 
thought a venial offence, in very many countries of Europe, to de- 
stroy an enemy by slow poison. Persons who would have revolted 
at the idea of stabbing a man to the heart, drugged his pottage 
without scruple. Ladies of gentle birth and manners caught the 
contagion of murder, until poisoning, under their auspices, became 
quite fashionable. Some delusions, though notorious to all the 
world, have subsisted for ages, flourishing as widely among civilised 
and polished nations as among the early barbarians with whom 
they originated, — that of duelling, for instance, and the belief in 
omens and divination of the future, which seem to defy the progress 
of knowledge to eradicate them entirely from the popular mind. 



VIU PBEPACE. 

Money, again, has often been a cause of the delusion of multitudes. 
Sober nations have all at once become desperate gamblers, and 
risked almost their existence upon the turn of a piece of paper. To 
trace the history of the most prominent of these delusions is the 
object of the present pages. Men, it has been well said, think in 
herds ; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only 
recover their senses slowly, and one by one. 

Some of the subjects introduced may be familiar to the reader; 
but the Author hopes that sufficient novelty of detail will be found 
even in these, to render them acceptable, while they could not be 
wholly omitted in justice to the subject of which it was proposed 
to treat. The memoirs of the South- Sea madness and the Missis- 
sippi delusion are more complete and copious than are to be foimd 
elsewhere ; and the same may be said of the history of the Witch 
Mania, which contains an account of its terrific progress in Ger- 
many, a part of the subject which has been left comparatively 
untouched by Sir Walter Scott in his Letters on Demonology and 
Witchcraft, the most important that have yet appeared on this 
fearful but most interesting subject. 

Popular delusions began so early, spread so widely, and have 
lasted so long, that instead of two or three volumes, ^^j would 
scarcely suffice to detail their history. The present may be con- 
sidered more of a miscellany of delusions than a history — a chapter 
only in the great and awful book of human folly which yet re- 
mains to be written, and which Person once jestingly said he 
would write in five hundred volumes I Interspersed are sketches 
of some lighter matters, — amusing instances of the imitativeness 
and wrongheadedness of the people, rather than examples of folly 
and delusion. 

Religious matters have been purposely excluded as incom- 
patible with the limits prescribed to the present work; a mere 
list of them would alone be sufficient to occupy a volume. 



c — S^g^A^'^tJ'*^^-^ 



MONET MAmA.— THE MSSISSIPPI SCHEME. 



Bome In rfandcBldDC compBuies coniUne ; 
Erect new Btocka to trbde beyond the line ; 
With air and emptf umeB begntle the tovn. 
And TBlie new credila flrai, then cry 'em down ; 
IMvide the empty nothing into Ahares, 
And aet Out crond to^tJier hj the ears. — Dtfot, 

The pergonal character and career of one man are ao intimately con- 
nected with the great scheme of the years 1719 and 1720, that a his- 
tory of the MissiBsippi madness can have no fitter introduction than 
a sketch of the life of its great author John Law. Historians are 
divided in opinion as to whether they should designate )ii'" a knave 



2 ZXTBAOBDINABT POFULAB DELUSIONS. 

or a madman. Both epithets were unsparingly applied to him in his 
lifetime, and while the unhappy consequences of his projects were 
still deeply felt. Posterity, however, has found reason to doubt the 
justice of the accusation, and to confess that John Law was neither 
knave nor madman, but one more deceived than deceiving, more 
sinned against than sinning. He was thoroughly acquainted with 
the philosophy and true principles of credit. He understood the 
monetary question better than any man of his day ; and if his system 
fell with a crash so tremendous, it was not so much his fault as that 
of the people amongst whom he had erected it. He did not calculate 
upon the avaricious frenzy of a whole nation ; he did not see that 
confidence, like mistrust, could be increased almost ad infinitum, and 
that hope was as extravagant as fear. How was he to foretell that 
the French people, like the man in the fable, would kill, in their 
frantic eagerness, the fine goose he had brought to lay them so many 
golden eggs ? His fate was like that which may be supposed to have 
overtaken the first adventurous boatman who rowed from Erie to 
Ontario. Broad and smooth was the river on which he embarked ; 
rapid and pleasant was his progress ; and who was to stay him in his 
career ? Alas for him ! the cataract was nigh. He saw, when it was 
too late, that the tide which wafted him so joyously along was a tide 
of destruction ; and when he endeavoured to retrace his way, he 
found that the current was too strong for his weak eflforts to stem, 
and that he drew nearer every instant to the tremendous falls, Down 
he went over the sharp rocks, and the waters with him. He was 
dashed to pieces with his bark, but the waters, maddened and turned 
to foam by the rough descent, only boiled and bubbled for a time, 
and then flowed on again as smoothly as ever. Just so it was with 
Law and the French people. He was the boatman, and they were 
the waters. 

John Law was bom at Edinburgh in the year 1671. His father 
was the younger son of an ancient family in Fife, and carried on the 
business of a goldsmith and banker. He amassed considerable wealth 
in his trade, sufficient to enable him to gratify the wish, so common 
among his countrymen, of adding a territorial designation to his 
name. He purchased with this view the estates of Lauriston and 
Eandleston, on the Frith of Forth, on the borders of West and Mid 
Lothian, and was thenceforth known as Law of Lauriston. The sub- 
ject of our memoir, being the eldest son, was received into his father's 
counting-house at the age of fourteen, and for three years laboured 
hard to acquire an insight into the principles of banking as then 
carried on in Scotland. He had always manifested great love for the 
study of numbers, and his proficiency in the mathematics was con- 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 3 

mdered extraorcl]iiar]r in one of his tender years. At the age of 
seventeen he was tall, strong, and well made ; and his face, although 
deeply scarred with the small-pox, was agreeable in ;its expression, 
and full of intelligence. At this time he began to neglect his busi- 
ness, and becoming vain of his person, indulged in considerable 
extravagance of attire. He was a great favourite with the ladies, by 
whom he was called Beau Law; while the other sex, despising his 
foppery, nicknamed him Jessamy John. At the death of his father, 
which happened in 1688, he withdrew entirely from the desk, which 
had become so irksome, and being possessed of the revenues of the 
paternal estate of Lauriston, he proceeded to London, to see the 
world. 

He was now very young, very vain, good-looking, tolerably rich, 
and quite uncontrolled. It is no wonder that, on his arrival in the 
capital, he should launch out into extravagance. He soon became a 
regular frequenter of the gaming-houses, and by pursuing a certain 
plan, based upon some abstruse calculation of chances, he contrived 
to gain considerable sums. All the gamblers envied him his luck, 
and many made it a point to watch his play, and stake their money 
on the same chances. In affairs of gallantry he was equally for- 
tunate ; ladies of the first .rank smiled graciously upon the handsome 
Scotchman — ^the young, the rich, the witty, and the obliging. But 
all these successes only paved the way for reverses. After he had 
been for nine years exposed to the dangerous attractions of the gay 
life he was leading, he became an irrecoverable gambler. As his love 
of play increased in violence, it diminished in prudence. Great losses 
were only to be repaired by still greater ventures, and one unhappy 
day he lost more than he could repay without mortgaging his family 
estate. To that step he was driven at last. At the same time his 
gallantry brought him into trouble. A love affair, or slight flirtation, 
with a lady of the name of Villiers,* exposed him to the resentment 
of a Mr. Wilson, by whom he was challenged to fight a duel. Law 
accepted, and had the ill fortune to shoot his antagonist dead upon 
the spot. He was arrested the same day, and brought to trial for 
murder by the relatives of Mr. Wilson, He was afterwards found 
guilty, and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to a 
fine, upon the ground that the offence only amounted to man- 
slaughter. An appeal being lodged by a brother of the deceased, Law 
was detained in the King's Bench, whence, by some means or other, 
which he never explained, he contrived to escape ; and an action 
being instituted against the sheriffs, he was advertised in the Gazette, 
and a reward offered for his apprehension. He was described as 

* Miss Elizabeth Yilliers, aftenrards Countess of Orkney. 



4 EXTKAOKDINAKY POFULAB DELUSIONS. 

" Captain John Law, a Scotchman, aged twentj-six ; a very tall, 
black, lean man ; well shaped, abore six feet high, with large pock- 
holes in his face ; big nosed, and speaking broad and loud." As this 
was rather a caricature than a description of him, it has been sup- 
posed that it was drawn up with a view to favour his escape. He 
succeeded in reaching the Continent, where he travelled for three 
years, and devoted much of his attention to the monetary and bank- 
ing affairs of the cotmtries through which he passed. He stayed a 
few months in Amsterdam, and speculated to some extent in the 
funds. His mornings were devoted to the study of finance and the 
principles of trade, and his evenings to the gaming-house. It is 
generally believed that he returned to Edinburgh in the year 1700. 
It is certain that he published in that city his Proposals and Reasons 
for constitv/ting a Council of Trade. This pamphlet did not excite 
much attention. 

In a short time afterwards he published a project for establishing 
what he called a Land-bank,''^ the notes issued by which were never 
to exceed the value of the entire lands of the state, upon ordinary 
interest, or were to be equal in value to the land, with the right to 
enter into possession at a certain time. The project excited a good 
deal of discussion in the Scottish Parliament, and a motion for the 
establishment of such a bank was brought forward by a neutral party, 
called the Squadrone, whom Law had interested in his favour. The 
Parliament ultimately passed a resolution to the effect, that, to estab- 
lish any kind of paper credit, so as to force it to pass, was an improper 
expedient for the nation. 

Upon the failure of this project, and of his efforts to procure a 
pardon for the murder of Mr. Wilson, Law withdrew to the Continent, 
and resumed his old habits of gaming. For fourteen years he con- 
tinued to roam about, ia Flanders, Holland, Germany, Hungary, 
Italy, and France. He soon became intimately acquainted with the 
extent of the trade and resources of each, and daily more confirmed 
in his opinion that no country could prosper without a paper cur- 
rency. During the whole of this time he Appears to have chiefly 
supported himself by successful play. At every gambling-house of 
note in the capitals of Europe he was known and appreciated as one 
better skilled in the intricacies of chance than any other man of the 
day. It is stated in the Biographie Universe that he was expelled, 
first from Venice, and afterwards from Genoa, by the magistrates, 
who thought him a visitor too dangerous for the youth of i hose cities. 
During his residence in Paris he rendered himself obnoxious to D'Ar- 
genson, the lieutenant-general of the police, by Whom he was ordered 
* The vits of the day called it » aom^ianit, which would wreck the vessel of the state. , 



THE MlaSlSsnTI SCHEME. 9 

to quit the e»pital. This did not take place, however, before he had 
made the acquaintuice, in the saloonB, of the Duke de TendOme, the 
Prince de Conti, and of the gay Duke of Orieans, the latter of whom 
was destined afterwardfl to exerdse bo much influen(» over hie fat». 
The Duke of Orleana was pleased with the TiTacity and good sense of 
the Scottish adventurer, while the latter was no less pleased with the 
wit and amiability of a prince who promised to become Ms patron. 
They were often thrown into each other's society, and Law seized 
every opportunity to instil his financial doctrines into the mind of 
one whose proximity to the throne pointed him out as destined, at 
no veiy distant date, to play an important part in the government. 

Shortly before the death of 
Louis XIV., or, as some say, in 
1708, Law proposed a scheme of 
finance to DeHmarets, the comp- 
troller. Louis is reported tQ 
have inquired whether the pro- 
jector were a Catholic, and on 
being answered in the n^alive, 
to have declined having any 
thing to do with him.* 

It was aft«r this repulse that 
he via ted Italy. His mind being 
still occupied with schemes of 
finance, he proposed to Victor 
AmadeuH, duke of Savoy, to 

establish his land-bank in that country. The duke replied that his 
dominions were too circumscribed for the execution of so great a 
project, and that he was by &r too poor a potentate to be ruined. 
He advised him, however, to try the king of Prance once more ; for 
he was sore, if he knew any thing of the French character, that 
the people would be delighted with a plan, not only so new, but so 
plaudble. 

Louis XIT. died in 1710, and the heir to the throne being an 
in&nt only seven years of age, the Duke of Orleans assumed the 
reins of government, as r^ent, during his minority. Law now found 
himself in a more fiivourable position. The tide in his affairs had 
come, which, taken at the flood, was to waft him on to fortune. 
• Thli UMdoU, vhlch li relited In tba coTTegpondence of Midline de BaTi^re 
Dncheu of Orjesiu and motlier of Ihe Regent, is dlsoredlud by Lord Jotau Riisiel] In 

does not Inform ni. There Is no dnnbl ttwt Liv prnposed hte Bcheme to De'smareU, and 
Out Loula refused to hear of It. The reuaaj^ven fOrtbereftual 1b quite coiuiBtent nil 
the character of that bigoted and ^rannlcal monarch. 



6 EXTBA.OBDINAS.Y POPULiLE DELUSIONS. 

The regent was his friend, abeady acquainted with his theory and 
pretensions, and inclined, moreover, to aid him in any efforts to re- 
store the wounded credit of France, bowed down to the earth by the 
extravagance of the long reign of Louis XIV. 

Hardly was that monarch laid in his grave ere the popular hatred, 
suppressed so long, burst forth against his memory. He who, during 
his life, had been flattered with an excess of adulation, to which 
history scarcely offers a parallel, was now cursed as a tyrant, a bigot, 
and a plunderer. His statues were pelted and disfigured ; his efl&gies 
torn down, amid the execrations of the populace, and his name ren- 
dered Sjrnonymous with selfishness and oppression. The glory of his 
arms was forgotten, and nothing was remembered but his reverses, 
his extravagance, and his cruelty. 

The finances of the country were in a state of the utmost dis- 
order. A profuse and corrupt monarch, whose profuseness and cor- 
ruption were imitated by almost every functionary, from the highest 
to the lowest grade, had brought France to the verge of ruin. The 
national debt amounted to 3000 millions of livres, the revenue to 
145 millions, and the expenses of government to 142 millions per 
annum ; leaving only three millions to pay the interest upon 3000 
millions. The first care of the regent was to discover a remedy for 
an evil of such magnitude, and a council was early summoned to 
take the matter into consideration. The Duke de St. Simon was of 
opinion that nothing could save the country from revolution but a 
remedy at once bold and dangerous. He advised the regent to con- 
voke the states-general, and declare a national bankruptcy. The 
Duke de Noailles, a man of accommodating principles, an accom- 
plished courtier, and totally averse from giving himself any trouble 
or annoyance that ingenuity could escape from, opposed the project 
of St. Simon with all his influence. He represented the expedient 
as alike dishonest and ruinous. The regent was of the same opinion, 
and this desperate remedy fell to the ground. 

The measures ultimately adopted, though they promised fair, only 
aggravated the evil. The first, and most dishonest measure was of 
no advantage to the state. A recoinage was ordered, by which the 
currency was depreciated one-fifth; those who took a thousand pieces 
of gold or silver to the mint received back an amount of coin of the 
same nominal value, but only four-fifths of the weight of metal. By 
this contrivance the treasury gained seventy -two millions of livres, 
and all the commercial operations of the country were disordered. 
A trifling diminution of the taxes silenced the clamours of the peo- 
ple, and for the slight present advantage the great prospective evil 
was forgotten. 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 7 

A Chamber of Justice was next instituted to inquire into the mal- 
versations of the loan-contractors and the farmers of the revenues. 
Tax-collectors are never very popular in any country, but those of 
France at this period deserved all the odium with which they were 
loaded. As soon as these farmers-general, with all their hosts of 
subordinate agents, called TndUdtiers,* were called to account for their 
misdeeds, the most extravagant joy took possession of the nation. 
The Chamber of Justice, instituted chiefly for this purpose, was en- 
dowed with very extensive powers. It was composed of the presidents 
and councils of the parliament, the judges of the Courts of Aid and 
of Requests, and the officers of the Chamber of Account, under the 
general presidence of the minister of finance. Informers were en- 
couraged to give evidence against the offenders by the promise of 
one-fifth part of the fines and confiscations. A tenth of all concealed 
effects belonging to the guilty was promised to such as should fur- 
nish the means of discovering them. 

The promulgation of the edict constituting this court caused a de- 
gree of consternation among those principally concerned, which can 
only be accounted for on the supposition that their peculation had been 
enormous. But they met with no sympathy. The proceedings against 
them justified their terror. The Bastille was soon unable to contain 
the prisoners that were sent to it, and the gaols all over the country 
teemed with guilty or suspected persons. An order was issued to all 
innkeepers and postmasters to refuse horses to such as endeavoured 
to seek safety in flight ; and all persons were forbidden, under heavy 
fines, to harbour them or favour their evasion. Some were con- 
demned to the pillory, others to the galleys, and the least guilty to 
fine and imprisonment. One only, Samuel Bernard, a rich banker 
and farmer-general of a province remote from the capital, was sen- 
tenced to death. So great had been the illegal profits of this man, — 
looked upon as the tyrant and oppressor of his district, — that he 
offered six millions of livres, or 250,000^. sterling, to be allowed to 
escape. 

His bribe was refused, and he suffered the penalty of death. 
Others, perhaps more guilty, were more fortunate. Confiscation, 
owing to the concealment of their treasures by the delinquents, often 
produced less money than a fine. The severity of the government 
relaxed, and fines, under the denomination of taxes, were indiscrimi- 
nately levied upon all offenders ; but so corrupt was every department 
of the administration, that the country benefited but little by the 
sums which thus flowed into the treasury. Courtiers and courtiers* 
wives and mistresses came in for the chief share of the spoils. One 

* From maltdte, an oppressive tax. 



8 EXTBAOBDINAKT POPULAR DELUSIONS, 

contractor had been taxed, in proportion to his wealth and goilt, at 
the sum of twelve millions of livres. The Count * * *, a man of 
some weight in the government, called upon him, and offered to pro- 
cure a remission of the fine if he would give him a hundred thousand 
crowns. " Vous 6tes trop tard, mon ami,*' replied the financier ; " I 
have already made a bargain with your wife for fifty thousand."* 

About a hundred and eighty millions of livres were levied in this 
manner, of which eighty were applied in payment of the debts con- 
tracted by the government. The remainder found its way into the 
pockets of the courtiers. Madame de Maintenon, writing on this 
subject, says, — " We hear every day of some new grant of the regent. 
The people murmur very much at this mode of employing the money 
taken from the peculators." The people, who, after the first burst 
of their resentment is over, generally express a sympathy for the 
weak, were indignant that so much severity should be used to so lit- 
tle purpose. They did not see the justice of robbing one set of rogues 
to fatten another. In a few months all the more guilty had been 
brought to punishment, and the Chamber of Justice looked for victims 
in humbler walks of life. Charges of fraud and extortion were brought 
against tradesmen of good character in consequence of the great in- 
ducements held out to common informers. They were compelled to 
lay open their affairs before this tribunal in order to establish their 
innocence. The voice of complaint resounded from eveiy side ; and 
at the expiration of a year the government found it advisable to dis- 
continue further proceedings. The Chamber of Justice was suppressed, 
and a general amnesty granted to all against whom no charges had 
yet been preferred. 

In the midst of this financial confusion Law appeared upon the 
scene. No man felt more deeply than the regent the deplorable state 
of the country, but no man could be more averse from putting his 
shoulders manfully to the wheel. He disliked business ; he signed 
official documents without proper examination, and trusted to others 
what he should have undertaken himself. The cares inseparable from 
his high office were burdensome to him. He saw that something 
was necessary to be done ; but he lacked the energy to do it, and had 
not virtue enough to sacrifice his ease and his pleasures in the at- 
tempt. No wonder that, with this character, he listened favourably 

* This anecdote is related by M. de la Hode, in his lAfe of Philippe of Orleans. It 
would have looked more authentic if he had given the names of the dishonest contractor 
and the still more dishonest minister. But M. de la Hode's book is liable to the same 
objection as most of the French memoirs of that and of subsequent periods. It is sufB- 
cient with most of them that an anecdote be ben trovato; the vero is but matter of secondary 
sonsideration. 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEMZ. 9 

to the mighty projects, so easy of execution, of the clever adyenturer 
whom he had formerly known, and whose talents he appreciated. 

When Law presented himself at court he was most cordially re- 
ceived. He offered two memorials to the regent, in which he set 
forth the evils that had befallen France, owing to an insufficient 
currency, at different times depreciated. He asserted that a metallic 
currency, unaided by a paper money, was wholly inadequate to the 
wants of a commercial countiy, and particularly cited the examples 
of Great Britain and Holland to shew the advantages of paper. He 
used many sound arguments on the subject of credit, and proposed 
as a means of restoring that of France, then at so low an ebb among 
the nations, that he should be allowed to set up a bank, which should 
have the management of the royal revenues, and issue notes both on 
that and on landed security. He further proposed that this bonk 
should be administered in the king's name, but subject to the control 
of commissioners to be named by the States-General. 

While these memorials were under consideration. Law translated 
into French his essay on money and trade, and used every means to 
extend through the nation his renown as a financier. He soon be- 
came talked of. The confidants of the regent spread abroad his 
praise, and every one expected great things of Monsieur Lass.* 

On the 5th of May, 1716, a royal edict was published, by which 
Law was authorised, in conjunction with his brother, to establish a 
bank under the name of Law and Company, the notes of which 
should be received in payment of the- taxes. The capital was fixed 
at six millions of livres, in twelve thousand shares of five hundred 
livres each, purchasable one fourth in specie, and the remainder in 
billets dotted. It was not thought expedient to grant him the whole 
of the privileges prayed for in his memorials until experience should 
have shewn their safety and advantage. 

Law was now on the high rood to fortune. The study of thirty 
years was brought to guide him in the management of his bank. He 
made all his notes payable at sight, and in the coin current at the 
time they were issued. This last was a master-stroke of policy, and 
immediately rendered his notes more valuable than the precious 
metals. The latter were constantly liable to depreciation by the un- 
wise tampering of the government. A thousand livres of silver might 
be worth their nominal value one day, and be reduced one-sixth the 
next, but a note of Law's bank retained its original value. He pub- 
licly declared at the same time, that a banker deserved death if he 

* The French prononnced his name in this manner to avoid the nngallic sound, ato. 
After the failure of his scheme, the wags said the nation was Icaae de 2m, and proposed 
that he should in fiituie he known by the name of Monsieur He2(u / 



10 £XTBAOBDIKA£T POPULAS DELUSIONS. 

made issues without having sufficient security to answer all demands. 
The consequence was, that his notes advanced rapidly in public esti- 
mation, and were received at one per cent more than specie. It was 
not long before the trade of the country felt the benefit. Languish- 
ing commerce began to lift up her head ; the taxes were paid with 
greater regularity and less murmuring ; and a degree of confidence 
was established that could not fail, if it continued, to become still 
more advantageous. In the course of a year. Law's notes rose to 
fifteen per cent premium, while the billets d'etat^ or notes issued by 
the government as security for the debts contracted by the extrava- 
gant Louis XIY., were at a discount of no less than seventy-eight and 
a half per cent. The comparison was too great in favour of Law not 
to attract the attention of the whole kingdom, and his credit extended 
itself day by day. Branches of his bank were almost simultaneously 
established at Lyons, Rochelle^ Tours, Amiens, and Orleans. 

The regent appears to have been utterly astonished at his success, 
and gradually to have conceived the idea that paper, which could so 
aid a metallic currency, could entirely supersede it. Upon this fun- 
damental error he afterwards acted. In the mean time. Law com- 
menced the famous project which has handed his name down to pos- 
terity. He proposed to the regent (who could refuse him nothing) 
to establish a company that should have the exclusive privilege of 
trading to the great river Mississippi and the province of Louisiana, 
on its western bank.. The country was supposed to abound in the 
precious metals ; and the company, supported by the profits of their 
exclusive commerce, were to be the sole farmers of the taxes and sole 
coiners of money. Letters patent were issued, incorporating the 
company, in August 1717. The capital was divided, into two hun- 
dred thousand shares of &ve hundred livres each, the whole of which 
might be paid in hiUets (TStatydit their nominal value, although worth 
no more than a hundred and sixty livres in the market. 

It was now that the frenzy of speculating began to seize upon the 
nation. Law's bank had effected so much good, that any promises 
for the future which he thought proper to make were readily believed. 
The regent every day conferred new privileges upon the fortunate 
projector. The bank obtained the monopoly of the sale of tobacco, 
the sole right of refinage of gold -and silver, and was finally erected 
into the Royal Bank of France. Amid the intoxication of success, 
both Law and the regent forgot the maxim so loudly proclaimed by 
the former, that a banker deserved death wha made issues of paper 
without the necessary funds to provide for them. As soon as the 
bank, from a private, became a public institution, the regent caused 
a fabrication of notes to the amount of one thousand millions of 



TEE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME, 11 

livres. This was the first departure from sound principles, and one 
for which Law is not justly blameable. While the affairs of the bank 
were under his control, the issues had never exceeded sixty millions. 
Whether Law opposed the inordinate increase is not known ; but as 
it took {^ace as soon as the bank was made a royal establishment, it 
is but fair to lay the blame of the change of system upon, the regent. 

Law found that he lived under a despotic government ; but he was 
not yet aware of the pernicious influence which such a government 
could exercise upon so delicate a framework as that of credit. He dis- 
covered it afterwards to his cost, but in the meantime suffered himself 
to be impelled by the regent into courses which his own reason must 
have disapproved. With a weakness most culpable, he lent his aid 
in inimdating the country with paper money, which, based upon no 
solid foundation, was sure to faU, sooner or later. The extraordinary 
present fortune dazzled his eyes, and prevented him from seeing the 
evil day that would burst over his head, when once, from any cause 
or other, the alarm was sounded. The parliament were from the first 
jealous of his influence as a foreigner, and had, besides, their misgiv- 
ings as to the safety of his projects. As his influence extended, their 
animosity increased. D'Aguesseau, the chancellor, was unceremoni- 
ously dismissed by the regent for his opposition to the vast increase 
of paper money, and the constant depreciation of the gold and silver 
coin of the realm. This only served to augment the enmity of the 
parliament, and when D'Argenson, a man devoted to the interests of 
the regent, was appointed to the vacant chancellorship, and made at 
the same time minister of finance, they became more violent than 
ever. The first measure of the new minister caused a further depre- 
ciation of the coin. In order to extinguish the hiUets d^Uat, it was 
ordered that persons bringing to the mint four thousand livres in 
specie and one thousand livres in hiUets d'etat, should receive back 
coin to the amount of five thousand livres. D*Argenson plumed him- 
self mightily upon thus creating five thousand new and smaller livres 
out of the four thousand old and larger ones, being too ignorant of 
the true principles of trade and credit to be aware of the immense 
injury he was inflicting upon both. 

The parliament saw at once the impolicy and danger of such a 
isystem, and made repeated remonstrances to the regent. The latter 
refused to entertain their petitions, when the parliament, by a bold 
and very unusual stretch of authority, commanded that no money 
should be received in payment but that of the old standard. The 
regent summoned a lit dejtcstice, and annulled the decree. The par- 
liament resisted, and issued another. Again the regent exercised his 
privilege, and annulled it, till the parliament, stung to fiercer opposi- 



12 exulaokdihakt pophlak DBLxtsioss. 

tioD, paBged another decree, &ted AogaBt 12th, 1718, b; which th^ 
forbade the bank of law to have any concern, either direct or in- 
direct, in the adminiBtr&tion of ths revenue ; and prohibited all 
foreigners, under heavy penaltioa, &om interfering, either in their 
own names, or in that of others, in the roanagement of the fiiuinces 
of the state. The parliament oonridered Law to be the author of aJl 
the evil, and some of the counoillora, in the virulence of their enmitj, 
proposed that he should be brought to trial, and, if found guilty, be 
hung at the gates of the Palais de Justice. 



Law, in great alarm, fled to the Palais Royal, and threw himself 
on the prot«ction of the r^ent, praying that measures might be taken 
to reduce the parliament to obedience. The regent had nothing so 
much at heart, both on that account and because of the disputes that 
had arisen relative to the legitimation of the Duke of Maine and the 
Count of Thoolouse, the sons of the late king. The parliament was 
ultimately overawed by the arrest of their president and two of the 
oonnciilors, who were sent to distant prisons. 

Thug the first cloud upon Law's prospects blew over : freed from 
apprehenuon of personal danger, he devoted his attention to his 
&mouB Mississippi project, the shares of which were rapidly rising, 
in spite of the parliunent. At the conunencement of the year 1719, 



« TEB UISSISaiPFl BCHEHE. 13 

an edict was published, gmnting to the Mieussippi Compaoj the ex- 
cluBire ptivil^e of trading to the Eagt Indies, China, and the South 
Seas, and to all the poBsesaions of the French East India Companj, 
established hj Colbert. The Companj, in consequence of this great 
increase of th^ business, assumed, as more appropriate, the title of 
Companj of the Indies, and created fift; thousand new shares. The 
prospects now held out by Law were most magnificent. He promised 
a yearlj dividend of two hundred livres upon each share of five hun- 
dred, which, as the shares were piud for in biliets d'etat, at their no- 
minal value, but worth onl; 100 Uvres, was at the rate of about 120 
per cent profit. ^ 



The public enthusiasm, which had been so long risitig, Gould not 
resist a vision so splendid. At least three hundred thousand applica- 
tions were made for the fiftj thousand new shares, and Law's bouoa 



14 EXTEAOBDINAET POPXJLAE DELUSIONS, 

in the Rue de Quincampoix was beset from morning to night by the 
eager applicants. As it was impossible to satisfy them all, it was 
several weeks before a list of the fortunate new stockholders could be 
made out, during which time the public impatience rose to a pitch of 
frenzy. Dukes, marquises, counts, with their duchesses, marchion- 
esses, and countesses, waited in the streets for hours every day be- 
fore Mr. Law's door to know the result. At last, to avoid the jost- 
ling of the plebeian crowd, which, to the number of thousands, filled 
the whole thoroughfare, they took apartments in the adjoining houses, 
that they might be continually near the temple whence the new Plutus 
was diffusing wealth. Evei^ day the value of the old shares increased, 
and the fresh applications, induced by the golden dreams of the whole 
nation, became so numerous that it was deemed advisable to create 
no less than three hundred thousand new shares, at five thousand 
livres each, in order that the regent might take advantage of the 
popular enthusiasm to pay off the national debt. For this purpose, 
the sum of fifteen hundred millions of livres was necessary. Such was 
the eagerness of the nation, that thrice the sum would have been 
subscribed if the government had authorised it. 

Law was now at the zenith of his prosperity, and the people were 
rapidly approaching the zenith of their infatuation. The highest and 
the lowest classes were alike filled with a vision of boundless wealth. 
There was not a person of note among the aristocracy, with the ex- 
ception of the Puke of St. Simon and Marshal Yillars, who was not 
engaged in buying or selling stock. People of every age and sex and 
condition in life speculated in the rise and fall of the Mississippi 
bonds. The Eue de Quincampoix was the grand resort of the jobbers, 
and it being a narrow, inconvenient street, accidents continually 
occurred in it, from the tremendous pressure of the crowd. Houses 
in it, worth, in ordinary times, a thousand livres of yearly rent, yielded 
as much as twelve or sixteen thousand. A cobbler, who had a stall 
in it, gained about two hundred livres a day by letting it out, and 
furnishing writing materials to brokers and their clients. The story 
goes, that a hunchbacked man who stood in the street gained consi- 
derable sums by lending his hump as a writing-desk to the eager spe- 
culators ! The great concourse of persons who assembled to do busi- 
ness brought a still greater concourse of spectators. These again 
drew all the thieves and immoral characters of Paris to the spot, and 
constant riots and disturbances took place. At nightfall, it was often 
found necessary to send a troop of soldiers to clear the street. 

Law, finding the inconvenience of his residence, removed to the 
Place Venddme, whither the crowd of agioteurs followed him. That 
spacious square soon became as thronged as the Rue de Quincam- 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEKB. 15 

poiz : from morning to night it presented the appearance of a fair. 
Booths and tents were erected for the transaction of business and the 
sale of refreshments, and gamblers with their roulette tables stationed 
themselves in the ver; middle of the place, and reaped a golden, or 
rather a paper, harvest from the throng. The boulevards and public 
gardens were forsaken ; parties of pleasure took their walks in prefer- 
ence in the Place TendAme, which became the fashionable lounge of 



the idle, as well as the general rendezvous of the busy. The noise 
was so great all daj, that the chancellor, whose court was situated in 
the square, complained to the regent and the municipality, that he 
could not hear the advocates, ikw, when apphed to, expressed his 
willingness to ud in the removal of the nuisance, and for this pnrpose 
entered into a treatj with the Prince de Carignan for the HAtel de 
SoisBons, which had a garden of several acres in the rear, A bargain 



16 EXTKA-OSDIHAKT FOPULAB DELTTSIOKS. 

was concluded, bj wHch law became the pnTcbaaer of the hotel at 
aa moimoiu price, the prince reperriog to himself the magnificent 
gardens as a new source of profit. The; contained some fine statues 
and several fountains, and were altogether laid out with much taste. 
As soon as Iaw was installed in his new abode, an edict was pub- 
lished, forbidding all persons to bu; or sell stock any where but in 
the gardens of thoHOtel de 8oissons. In the midst, amcHig the trees, 
about five htmdred small tents and pavilions were erected, for the 



convenience of the ttock-jobhen. Their vririons colonra, the gay 
ribands and banners which floated from them, the busy crowds which 
passed continnllj in and out — the inaewant hum of voices, the noise, 
the mugic, and the cbangv mistore of busiiieK and pleasure on the 
countenances Df the tinvng, all combined to give the place an air of 
enchantment that qaHe enr^tnred the Parisians. The Prince de 
Carignan made enormous profits while the delusion lasted. Each 
tent was let at the rate of five hundred livres a month ; and, as there 
were at least five hundred of them, his monthly revenue from this 
source alone must have amounted to 250,000 livies, or upwards of 
10,000i, sterling. 

The honest old soldier. Marshal Tillara, was so vexed to see the 
folly which bad smitten his countrymen, that be never could speak 
with temper on the snbjecL Pa^ng one day througb the Place 
Tenddme in his carrii^, the choleric gentleman was so annoyed at 
the in&tuation of &e people, that be abruptly ordered his coachman 
to stop, and, putting bis head out of the carriage window, harangued 
themforfullbalf an houron their "disgusting avarice." Thiswas 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEMB. 17 

not a veiy wise proceeding on Ms part. Hisses and shouts of laughter 
resounded from*every side, and jokes withput number were aimed at 
him. There being at last strong symptoms that something more 
tangible was flying throu^ the air in the directicm of his head, the 
marshal was glad to drive on* He never again repeated the experi- 
ment. 

Two sober, quiet, and philosophic men of letters, M. de la Motte 
and the Abb^ Terrason, congratulated each other, that they, at least, 
were free from this strange infatuation. A few days afterwards, as 
the Iworthy abb4 was ccwning out of the H6tel de Soissons, whither 
he had gone to buy shares in ihe Mississippi, whom should he see but 
his friend La Motte entering for the same purpose. " Ha I" said the 
abb6 smiling, "is that you f" " Yes," said La Motte, pushing past 
him as fast as he was able ; " and can that be youf^ The next time 
the two scholars met, they talked of philosophy, of science, and of 
religion, but neither had courage for a long time to breathe one 
syllable about the Mississippi. At last, when it was mentioned, they 
agreed that a man ought never to swear against his doing any one 
thing, and that there was no sort <^ extravagance of which even a 
wise man was not capable. 

During this time. Law, the new Plutus, had become all at once 
the most important personage of the state. The ante-chambers of the 
regent were forsaken by the courtiers. Peers, judges, and bishops 
thronged to the Hdtel de Soissons ; officers of the army and navy, 
ladies of title and fashion, and every one to whom hereditary rank or 
public employ gave a claim to precedence, were to be found waiting 
in his ante-chambers to beg for a portion of his India stock. Law 
was so pestered that he was unable to see one-tenth part of the appli- 
cants, and every jnanoeuvre that ingenuity could suggest was employed 
to gain access to him. Peers, whose dignity would have been out- 
raged if the regent had made them wait half an hour for an interview, 
were content to wait six hours for the chance of seeing Monsieur Law. 
Enormous fees were paid to his servants, if they would merely an- 
nounce their names. Ladies of rank employed the blandishments of 
their smiles for the samte object ; but many of them came day after 
day for a fortnight before they could obtain an audience. When Law 
accepted an invitation, he was sometimes so surrounded by ladies, all 
asking to have their names put down in his lists as shareholders in the 
new stock, that, in spite of his well-known and habitual gallantry, 
he was obliged to tear himself away parforce^ The most ludicrous 
stratagems were employed to have an opportunity of speaking to him. 
One lady, who had striven in vain during several days, gave up in 
despair all attempts to see him at his own house, but ordered her 

2 



IS EXTOAOIIDIHABY POPUL&S DELITSIONS, 

CDax^hjuan to keep a strict watch whenever she mas out in her carriBge, 
and if he saw Mr. Iaw coming, to drive agaiuat a post and upset her. 
The coachman promised obedience, and for three days the ladj was 
driven iuceasantlj through the town, pnijiog inwardly for the oppor- 
tunity to be overturned. At last she espied Mr. Law, and, pulling 
the string, called out to the coachman, " Upset us now t for God's 
sake, upset us now !" The coachman drove against a post, the ladj 



screamed, the coach was overi^onied, and Law, who had seen the acci- 
detd, hastened to the spot to render assistance. The cunning dame 
was led into the Hfitel de Soissons, where she soon thought it advis- 
able to recover from her fright, and, after apologising to Mr. Iaw, 
confessed her stratagem. Law smiled, and entered the ladj in his 
books as the purchaser of a quantity of India stock. Another sto^ 
is told of a Madame de Boucha, who, knowing that Mr. Law was at 
dinner at a certain house, proceeded thither in her carriage, and gave 
the alarm of fire. The company started from table, and Law among 
the rest ; hut, seeing one lady nutking all haste into the house towards 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 19 

him, while every body else was scampering away, he suspected the 
trick, and ran off in another direction. 

Many other anecdotes are related, which even though they may 
be a little exaggerated, are nevertheless worth preserving, as shewing 
the spirit of that singular period.* The regent was one day mention- 
ing, in the presence of D*Argenson, the Abb6 Dubois, and some other 
persons, that he was desirous of deputing some lady, of the rank at 
least of a duchess, to attend upon his daughter at Modena ; ^^ but," 
added he, "I do not exactly know where to find one." " No !" re- 
plied one, in affected surprise ; " I can tell you where to find every 
duchess in France : you have only to go to Mr. Law's ; you will see 
them every one in his ante-chamber." 

M. de Chirac, a celebrated physician, had bought stock at an 
unlucky period, and was very anxious to sell out. Ptock, however, 
continued to fall for two or three days, much to his alarm. His mind 
was filled with the subject, when he was suddenly called upon to 
attend a lady who imagined herself unwell. He arrived, was shewn 
up stairs, and felt the lady's pulse. ^' It falls ! it falls ! good God ! it 
falls continually !" said he musingly, while the lady looked up in his 
face all anxiety for his opinion. " Oh, M. de Chirac," said she, start- 
ing to her feet and ringing the bell for assistance ; ** I am dying ! 
I am dymg I it falls I it falls I it faUs !" " What faUs ?" inquired the 
doctor in amazement. " My pulse ! my pulse I" said the lady ; " I 
must be dying." ** Calm your apprehensions, my dear madam," said 
M. de Chirac ; " I was speakmg of the stocks. The truth is, I have 
been a great loser, and my mind is so disturbed, I hardly know what 
I have been saying." 

The price of shares sometimes rose ten or twenty per cent in the 
course of a few hours, and many persons in the humbler walks of life, 
who had risen poor in the morning, went to bed in affluence. An 
extensive holder of stock, being taken ill, sent his servant to sell two 
hundred and fifty shares, at eight thousand livres each, the price at 
which they were then quoted. The servant went, and, on his arrival 
in the Jardin de Soissons, found that in the interval the price had 
risen to ten thousand livres. The difference of two thousand livres 
on the two hundred and fifty shares, amounting to 500,000 livres, or 
20,000^. sterling, he very coolly transferred to his own use, and giving 
the remainder to his master, set out the same evening for another 
country. Law's coachman in a very short time made money enough 

* The cnrioofl reader may find an anecdote of the eagerness of the French ladies to 
retain Law in their company, vhich will make him hlnsh or smile according as he 
happens to be very modest or the reverse. It is related in the Letters o/ Madame 
CharlotU Elizabeth de BavUre, Ducheea of Orleans, vol. ii. p. 274. 



20 EXTEAOfiDINABY POFVLAJL DELUSIONS. 

to set up a carriage of his own, and requested permission to leave his 
service. I^w^ who esteemed the man, begged of him as a favour^ that 
he would endeavour, before he went, to find a substitute as good as 
himself. The coachman consented, and in the evening lurought two 
of his former comrades, telling Mr. Law to choose between them, and 
he would take the other. Oookmaids and footmen were now and then 
as lucky, and, in the full-blown pride of their easily-acquired wealth, 
made the most ridiculous mistakes. Preserving the language and 
manners of their old, with the fineiy of their new station, they af- 
forded continual subjects for the pity of the sensible, the contempt 
of the sober, and the laughter of every body. But the folly and 
meanness of the higher ranks of society were still more disgusting. 
One instance alone, related by the Duke de St. Simon, will shew the 
unworthy avarice which infected the whole of society. A man of 
the name of Andr6, without character or education, had, by a series 
of well-timed speculations in Mississippi bonds, gained enormous 
wealth in an incredibly short space of time. As St. Simon expresses 
it, ^' he had amassed mountains of gold.'' As he became rich, he 
grew ashamed of the lowness of his birth, and anxious above all 
things to be allied to nobility. He had a daughter, an infant only 
three years of age, and he opened a negotiation with the aristocratic 
and needy family of B'Oyse, that this child should, upon certain 
conditions, marry a member of that house. The Marquis D'Oyse, to 
his shame, consented, and promised to marry her himself on her at- 
taining the age of twelve, if the father would pay him down the sum 
of a hundred thousand crowns, and twenty thousand livres every year 
until the celebration of the marriage. The marquis was himself in 
his thirty-third year. This scandalous bargain was duly signed and 
sealed, the stockjobber furthermore agreeing to settle upon his daugh- 
ter, on the marriage-day, a fortune of several millions. The Duke of 
Brancas, the head of the family, was present throughout the negotia- 
tion, and shared in all the profits. St. Simon, who treats the matter 
with the levity becoming what he thought so good a joke, adds, 'Hhat 
people did not spare their animadversions on this beautiful marriage," 
and further informs us, '* that the project fell to the ground son^e 
months afterwards by the overthrow of Law, and the ruin of the 
ambitious Monsieur Andr6." It would appear, however, that the 
noble family never had the honesty to return the hundred thousand 
crowns. 

Amid events like these, which, humiliating though they be, par- 
take largely of the ludicrous, others occurred of a more serious nature. 
Robberies in the streets were of daily occurrence, in consequence of 
the inmiense sums, in paper, which people carried about with them. 



AssaemiiEttioiiB were also frequent. One case in particular fised the 
attention of the whole of France, not onlj on account of the enor- 
mity of the offence, but of the rank and high conneiiona of the 



The Count d'Hom, a joimger brother of the Prince d'Horn, and 
related to the noble fomiliea of D'Aremberg, De Ligne, and De Mont- 
morency, was a young man of dissipated character, extravagant to a 
degree, and unprincipled aa he was extravagant. In connexion with 



two other young men as reckless as himself, named Mille, a Fied- 
monteae captain, and one Destampes, or Lestang, a Fleming, he 
formed a design to rob a very rich broker, who was known, imfortu- 
nately for himself, to carry great sums about his person. The count 
pretended a desire to purchase of him a number of shares in the Oom- 



22 EKTRiOttBINiKY POPULAH DELrSIONS. 

pauy of the Indies, and for that purpose appointed to meet liim in it 
eaiaret, or low public-house, in the neighbourhood of the Place Ven- 
dOme. The unsuBpectlng hroker was punctual to hii a^wintmeut ; 
80 were the Count d'Hom and his two asaociates, whom he introduced 
as his particuhu* friends. After a few momestE' courersation, the 
Count d'Hora Buddenl; eprang upon his victim, and stabbed him 
three times in the breast with a poniard. The Biaa fell heavily to 
the ground, and, while the count was employed ia rifling hia portfolio 
of bonds iu the Mississippi and Indian schemes to the amount of one 
hundred thousand crowns, Mille, the Piedmontese, stabbed the unfor- 
tunate broker again and ^ain, to make sure of his death. But the 
broker did not fall without a strug^e, and his cries brought the people 
of the eaiaret to his assistance. Lestang, the other assaesin, who had 
been set to keep watch at a staircase, sprang from s windon and 
escaped ; but Mille and the Coont d'Hom were seiied in the very act. 
This crime, c«nmitted in open day, and in so puUic a place as a 
c^artt, filled Paris with consternation. The trial oi the aasassina 
comrnenced on the following day ; aoid the evidence being so clear, 
they were both found guilty, and condemned to be broken alive on 
the wheel. The noble relatives of the Count d'Hom absolutely blocked 
up the ante-chambers of the regent, praying for mercy on the mis- 
guided youth, and alleging that he was insane. The regent avoided 
them aa loog as poSHtble, being determined that, in a case so atro- 
cious, justice should take its course. But the importunity ef these 
influ^itial suitors was not to be overcome so silently; and they at 
last forced themselves into the presence of the ri^nt, and prayed him 
to save their house the shame of a public execution. They hinted 
that the Princes d'Hom were allied to theillugtriousfamily of Orleans; 
and added, that the regent himself would be disgraced if a kinsman 
of his should die by the hands of a common executioner. The regent, 
to his credit, was proof against all their soticitatiouB, and replied to 
their last argument in the wonJs of Comeille : 

" Le oriioe fait la honte. et non pasl'^chafiud :" 

\g, that whatever shame there might be in the punishment he 
I very willingly share with the other relatives. Day after day 
renewed their entreaties, but always with the same result". At 
hey thou^t, that if they could interest the Duke de St. Simon 
eir fiivour— a man for whom the regent felt sincere eateem — they 
t succeed in their object. The duke, a thorough aristocrat, was 
ocked as they were that a noble assassin should die by the same 
1 as a plebeian felon, and represented to the regent the impolicy 
tking enemies of BO numerous, wealthy, and powerful a family. 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 23 

He urged, too, that in Germany, where the family of D'Aremberg had 
large possessions, it was the law, that no relative of a person broken 
on the wheel could succeed to any public office or employ until a 
whole generation had passed away. For this reason, he thought the 
punishment of the guilty count might be transmuted into beheading, 
which was considered all over Europe as much less infamous. The 
regent was moved by this argument, and was about to consent, when 
Law, who felt peculiarly interested in the fate of the murdered 
man, confirmed him in his former resolution to let the law take its 
course. 

The relatives of D'Hom were now reduced to the last extremity. 
The Prince de Robec Montmorency, despairing of other methods, 
found means to penetrate into the dungeon of the criminal, and offer- 
ing him a cup of poison, implored him to save them from disgrace. 
The Count d'Horn turned away his head, and refused to take it. 
Montmorency pressed him once more ; and losing all patience at his 
continued refusal, turned on his heel, and exclaiming, ^^ Die, then, 
as thou wilt, mean-spirited wretch ! thou art fit only to perish by the 
hands of the hangman ! " left him to his fate. 

D'Hom himself petitioned the regent that he might be beheaded ; 
but Law, who exercised more influence over his mind than any other 
person, with the exception of the notorious Abbe Dubois, his tutor, 
insisted that he could not in justice succumb to the self-interested 
views of the D'Homs. The regent had from the first been of the 
same opinion ; and within six days after the commission of their 
crime, D'Hom and Mille were broken on the wheel in the Place de 
Qr^ve. The other assassin, Lestang, was never apprehended. 

This prompt and severe justice was highly pleasing to the popu- 
lace of Paris. Even M. de Quincampoix, as they called Law, came 
in for a share of their approbation for having induced the regent to 
shew no favour to a patrician. But the number of robberies and 
assassinations did not diminish; no sympathy was shewn for rich 
jobbers when they were plundered. The general laxity of public 
morals, conspicuous enough before, was rendered still more so by its 
rapid pervasion of the middle classes, who had hitherto remained 
comparatively pure between the open vices of the class above and the 
hidden crimes of the class below them. The pernicious love of gam- 
bling diffused itself through society, and bore all public and nearly 
all private virtue before it. 

For a time, while confidence lasted, an impetus was given to trade 
which could not fail to be beneficial. In Paris especially the good 
results were felt. Strangers flocked into the capital from every part, 
bent not only upon making money, but on spending it. The Duchess 



24 EETBAOSDINABT POFCLAS SZLUSIOHS. 

of Orleans, mother of the regent, cwnputes the increase of the popu- 
lation during this time, from the great influx of strangers from all 
puis of the world, at 305,000 souls. The housekeepers vere obliged 
to make up beds in garrets, kitohens, and eren stables, for the ac- 
commodation of lodgers ; and the town was so full of carriages and 
Tehicles of every description, that thej were obliged, in the principal 
streets, to drive at a foot-pace for feat of accidents. The looms of 
the country worked with unusual activitj to supply rich laces, ulks, 
broad-cloth, and velTets, which bein^ paid for in abundant paper, 
increased in price four-fold. Provisions shared the general advance. 
Bread, meat, and vegetables were Bold at prices greater than had ever 
before been known ; while the wages of labour rose in ezactlj the 
same proportion. The artisan who formerly gained fifteen sous per 
diem now gained slaty. New houses were built in every direction ; 
an illusory prosperity shone over the land, and so dazzled the eyee of 
the whole nation, that none could see the dark cloud on the horizon 
announcing the storm that was too rapidly approaching. 

Law himself, the magician whose wand had wrought bo surprising 
a change, shared, of course, in the general prosperity. His wife and 
daughter were covirted by the highest nobility, and their alliance 
sought by the heirs of ducal and princely houses. He bought two 
splendid estates in different parts of Fi&nce, and entered into a nego- 
tiation with the family of the Duke de Sully for the purchase of the 
marquisate of Rosny. His religion being an obstacle to his advance- 
ment, the regent promised, if he would publicly conform to the Ca- 
tholic faith, to make him comptroller-general of the finances. Law, 
whb had no more real religion than any other professed gambler, 
readily agreed, and was confirmed by the Abbe de Tencin in the 
cathedral of Melun, in presence of a great crowd of spectators.* On 
the following day he was elected honorary churchwarden of the parish 
of St. Roch, upon which occasion he made it a present of the sum of 
five hundred thousand livres. His charities, always magnificent, were 
not always so c«tentatious. He gave away great sums privately, and 
le of real distress ever reached Iiis ears in vain. 

he following squib hbb circulated on tbo occuian : 
" Foln de ton tMe i^nphlque, 
Uiltienieni AliM de Tendn, 
Depiiii quo Uw aet CithoUqne, 
Tout le royaume est Capnoinl" 
omewhat weakly and parapbrutlcalty recdered by JueUndsond, tu hlB tnuisUUoa 

" Tenoin, ■ cnna on Ihy unpbic leal, 



THE lasSISSIFFI SCEEKB, 23 

At thie time he was by fat the most influential person of the atate. 
The Duke of Orleans had so much confldence in hia sagacity and the* 
succesa of his plans, that he always consulted him upon every nutter 
of moment. He was by no means unduly elevated by his prospeiity, 
but remained the same simple, affable, sensible man that he bad 
shewn himself in adversity. Hia gallantry, which was always delight- 
ful to the fur objects of it, was of a nature so kind, so gentlemanly, 
and so respectful, that not even a lover oonld have taken offence at 
it. If upon any occaaon he shewed any Bymptoms of haughtiness, 
it was to the cringing uohlos who lavished their adulation Kpon him 



till it became fulsome. He often took pleasure in awaag how long he 
could make them dance attendance upon him for a single favour. To 
such of his own countrymen as by chance vi^ted Paris, and sought 
an interview with him, he was, on the contrary, all politeness and 
attention. When Arcliibald Campbell, Earl of lalay, and a-fterwarda 
Duke of Aigfle, called upon him in the Place Vendfime, he had to 
pass through an ante-chamber crowded with persons of the first dis- 
tinction, all anxious to see the great financier, and have their names 
put down as first on the list of some new subscription. Law himself 
was quietly ^tting in his library, writing a letter to the gardener at 
his paternal estate of Lauriston about the planting of BOme cabbages ! 
The earl stayed for a couaiderahle time, played a game of piquet with 
his countryman, and left him, charmed with bis ease, good sense, and 
good breeding, 

* FnmaprintlnftDQtchc^llfictiMtof utiTEcHlpfiDtflFfllfcUnstotheUiaBlBHipplUASta, 
enttUed "Hetgronta Tsf^reel der DvisBheld ;" or, The gnat ptctore of Folly. The print 
of Atl&a is styled, "L'AtlKB actlenide FKpler." Law la OBlliBg in HEn^lee to aid him 



26 EXTRA0E3)INAB,Y POPULAB. DELUSIONS. 

Among the nobles who, by means of the public credulity at this 
*time, gained sums sufficient to repair their ruined fortunes, may be 
mentioned the names of the Dukes de Bourbon, de Guiche, de la 
Force,* de Chaulnes, and d*Antin ; the Marechal d'Estr^es ; the 
Princes de Rohan, de Poix, and de L6on. The Duke de Bourbon, 
son of Louis XIV. by Madame de .Montespan, was peculiarly fortunate 
in his speculations in Mississippi paper. He rebuilt the royal resi- 
dence of Ohantilly in a style of unwonted magnificence ; and being 
passionately fond of horses, he erected a range of stables, which were 
long renowned throughout Europe^ and imported a hundred and fifty 
of the finest racers from England to improve the breed in France. 
He bought a large extent of country in Picardy, and became possessed 
of nearly all tk©^ valuable lands lying between the^Oise and the 
Somme. 

Whed fortunes such as these were gained, it is no wonder that 
Law should have been afanost worshipped by the mercurial popula- 
tion. Never was monarch more flattered than he was. All the small 
poets and litterateurs of the day poured floods of adulation upon him. 
According to^^them, he was'the saviour of the country, the tutelary 
divinity of France ; wit was in all his words, goodness in all his looks, 
and wisdom in all his actions. So great a crowd followed his carriage 
whenever he went abroad, that the regent sent him a troop of horse 
as his permanent escort to clear the streets before him. 

It was remarked at this time that Paris had never before been so 
full of objects of elegance and luxury. Statues, pictures, and tapes- 
tries were imported in great quantities from foreign countries, and 
found a readymarket. All those pretty trifles in the way of furni- 
ture and ornament which the French excel in manufacturing were no 
longer the exclusive playthings of the aristocracy, hwi were to be 
found in abundance in the houses of traders and the middle classes in 
general. Jewellery of the most costly description was brought to 
Paris as the most favourable mart ; among the rest, the famous dia- 
mond bought by the regent, and called by his name, and which long 
adorned the crown of France. It was purchased for the simi of two 
millions of livres, under circumstances which shew that the regent 
was not so great a gainer as some of his subjects hj the impetus which 
trade had received. When the diamond was first offered to him, he 
refused to buy it, although he desired above all things to possess it, 

* The Duke de la Force gained considerable sums, not only by jobbing in the stocks, 
but in dealing in porcelain, spices, &c. It was debated for a length of time in the par- 
liament of Paris whether he had not, in his quality of spice-merchant, forfeited his rank 
in the peerage. It was decided in the negative. A caricature of him was made, dressed 
as a street-porter, carrying a large bale of spices on his back, with the inscriptioui 
" Admirez La Fobcb." 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME, 27 

alleging as his reasoDr, that his duty to the cmmtryhe govemed would 
not allow him to spend so large a sum of the public money for a mere 
jewel. This valid and honourable excuse threw all the ladies of the 
court into alarm, and nothing was heard for some days but expres- 
sions of regret that so rare a gem should be allowed to go out of 
France, no private individual being rich enough to buy it. The re- 
gent was continually importuned about it, but all in vain, until the 
Duke de St. Simon, who with all his ability was something of a twad- 
dler, undertook the weighty business. His entreaties being seconded 
by Law, the good-natured regent gave Ms consent, leaving to Law's 
ingenuity to find the means to. pay for it. The owner took security 
fo^r the payment of the sum of two millions of livres within a stated 
period, receiving in the mean time the interest of five -per cent upon 
that amount, and being «diowed, besides, all the valuable clippings of 
the gem. St. Simon, in his Jl/ewia^^y rdates with no little compla- 
cency his share in this transaction. After describing the diamond to 
be as large as a greengage, of a- form nearly round, perfectly white, 
and without flaw, and weighing more than ^yb hundred grains, he 
concludes with a ohuckle, by telling the world "that he takes great 
credit to himself for Jiaving induced the regent to make so illustrious 
a purchase." In other words, he was proud that he had induced him 
to sacrifice his duty, and buy a bauble for himself at an extravagant 
price out of the public money. 

Thus the system, continued to flourish till tho commencement of 
the year 1720. The warnings of the parliament, that too great a 
creation of paper money would, sooner or later, bring the coijntry to 
bankruptcy, were disregarded. The regent, who-knew nothing what- 
ever of the philosophy of finance, thought that a system which had 
produced such good effects could never be carried to excess. If five 
hundred millions of paper had been of such advantage, five hundred 
millions additional would be ^f still greater advantage. This was the 
grand error of the regent, and which Law did not attempt to di^el. 
The- extraordinary a^dity of the people kept up the delusion ; and 
the higher the price of Indian and Mississippi stock, the more biUeta 
de hanque were issued to keep pace with it. ^ -The edifice thus reared 
might not unaptly be compared to the gorgeous palace erected by 
Potemkin, that princely barbarian of Russia, to surprise and please 
his imperial mistress : huge blocks of ice were piled one upon another ; 
ionic pillars, of chastest workmanship, in ice, formed a noble portico ; 
and a dome, of the same material, shone in the sun, which had just 
strength enough to gild, but not to melt it. It glittered afar, like a 
palace of crystals and diamonds ; but there came one warm breeze 
from the south, and the stately building dissolved away, till none 



28 EXTRAOBDINARY POPULAB. DELUSIONS. 

were able even to gather up the fragments. So with Law and his 
paper system. No sooner did the breath of popular mistrust blow 
steadily upon it, than it fell to ruins, and none could raise it up again. 

The first slight alarm that was occasioned was early in 1720. .The 
Prince de Oonti, offended that Law should have denied him fresh 
shares in India stock, at his own price, sent to his bank to demand 
payment in specie of so enormous a quantity of notes, that three 
wagons were required for its transport. Law complained to the 
regent, and urged on his attention the mischief that would be done, 
if such an example found many imitators. The regent was but too 
well aware of it, and, sending for the Prince de Conti, ordered him, 
under penalty of his high displeasure, to refund to the bank two-thirds 
of the specie which he had withdrawn from it. The prince was forced 
to obey the despotic mandate. Happily for Law's credit, De Conti 
was an unpopular man : every body condemned his meanness and 
cupidity, and agreed that Law had been hardly treated. It is strange, 
however, that so narrow an escape should not have made both Law 
and the regent more anxious to restrict their issues. Others were 
soon found who imitated, from motives of distrust, the example which 
had been set by De Conti in revenge. The more acute stockjobbers 
imagined justly that prices could not continue to rise for ever. Bour- 
don and La Bichardi^re, renowned for their extensive operations in 
the funds, quietly and in small quantities at a time, converted their 
notes into specie, and sent it away to foreign countries. They also 
bought as much as they could conveniently carry of plate and expen- 
sive jewellery, and sent it secretly away to England or to Holland. 
Vermalet, a jobber, who sniffed the coming storm, procured gold and 
silver coin to the amount of nearly a million of livres, which he packed 
in a farmer's cart, and covered over with hay and cow-dimg. He 
then disguised himself in the dirty smock-frock, or Uouse, of a peasant, 
and drove his precious load in safety into Belgium. . Jrom thence he 
soon found means to transport it to Amsterdam. 

Hitherto no difficulty had been experienced by any class in pro- 
curing specie for their wants. But this system could not long be car- 
ried on without causing a scarcity. The voice of complaint was heard 
on every side, and inquiries being instituted, the cause was soon dis- 
covered. The council debated long on the remedies to be taken, and 
Law, being called on for his advice, was of opinion, that an edict 
should be published, depreciating the value of coin five per cent 
below that of paper. The edict was published accordingly ; but failing 
of its intended effect, was followed by another, in which the depre- 
ciation was increased to ten per cent. The payments of the bank 
were at the same time restricted to one hundred livres in gold, and 



THE ItlSSISSlFFI aCHEHE. 



ten in fdlver. All these measures were nugatory to reetoK ponfidence 
in the paper, though the restriction of cash payments within limits 
BO extremely narrow kept up the credit of the bank. 



Notwithstanding vrery effort to the cmtrarj, the predoos metals 
continued to be conveyed to England and Holland. The little coin 
that was left in the countt7 was carefully treaBured, or hidden until 
the Bcaidty became so great, that the operations of trade could no 
longer be carried on. In this emergency. Law hazarded the bold ex- 
periment of forbidding the use of Epeoie altogether. In February 



30 EXTBAORDINAEY POPULAH DELUSIONS. 

1720 an edict was published, which, instead of restoring the credit of 
the paper, as was intended, destroyed it irrecoverably, and drove the 
country to the very brink of revolution* . By this famous edict it was 
forbidden to any person whatever to have more than five hundred 
livres (20^.) of coin in his possession, under pain of a heavy fine, and 
confiscation of the sums found. It was also forbidden to buy up 
jewellery, plate, and precious stones, and informers were encouraged 
to make search for offenders, by the promise of one-half the amount 
they might discover. The whole country sent up a cry of distress at 
this unheard-of tyranny. The most odious persecution daily took 
place. The privacy of families was violated by the intrusion of in- 
formers and their agents. The most virtuous and honest were de-. 
nounced for the crime of having been seen with a louis d'or in their 
possession. Servants betrayed their masters, one citizen became a 
spy upon his neighbour, and arrests and confiscations so multiplied, 
that the courts found a difficulty in getting through the immense in- 
crease of business thus occasioned. It was sufficient for an informer 
to say that he suspected any person of concealiug money in his house, 
and immediately a search-warrant was granted. Lord Stair, the Eng- 
lish ambassador, said, that it was now impossible to doubt of the sin- 
cerity of Law's conversion to the Catholic religion ; he had established 
the inquidtioriy after having given abundant evidence of his faith in 
transuhstantiation, by turning so much gold into paper. 

Every epithet that popular hatred could suggest was showered 
upon the regent and the unhappy Law. Coin, to any amount above 
five hundred livres, was an illegal tender, and nobody would take 
paper if he could help it. No one knew to-day what his notes would 
be worth to-morrow. " Never," says Duclos, in his Secret Memoirs 
of the Regency^ " was seen a more capricious government — ^never was 
a more frantic tyranny exercised by hands less firm. It is inconceiv- 
able to those who were witnesses of the horrors of those times, and 
who look back upon them now as on a dream, that a sudden revolu- 
tion did not break out — ^that Law and the regent did not perish by a 
tragical death. They were both held in horror, but the people con- 
fined themselves to complaints ; a sombre and timid despair, a stupid 
consternation, had seized upon all, and men's minds were too vile 
even to be capable of a courageous crime." It would appear that, a 
one time, a movement of the people was organised. Seditious writ- 
ings were posted up against the walls, and were sent, in hand-bills, 
to the houses of the most conspicuous people. One of them, given 
in the M^nioires de la Begenc€y was to the following eflfect : — " Sir 
and madam, — This is to give you notice that a St. Bartholomew's 
Day will be enacted again on Saturday and Sunday, if affairs do not 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEllE. 31 

&lter. You are desired not to stir out, nor jou, nor your Bervauts. 
God preserve you from the flames 1 Give notice to your neighbours. 
Dated, Saturday, May 35th, 1720." The immense number of spies 
with which the city was infested rendered the people nuBtrustful of 
one another, and beyond some trifling disturbances made in the even- 
ing by an insignificant group, which waa soon dispersed, the peace of 
the capital was not compromised. 

The value of shares in the Louisiana, or Mississippi stock, had 
&llen veiy rapidly, and few indeed were found to believe the t«les 
that had once been told of the immense wealth of that region. A 
last effort was therefore tried to restore the public confidence in the 
Mississippi project. For this purpose, a general conscription of all 
the poor wretches in Paris was made by order of government. Up- 
wards of six thousand of the very refuse of the population were im- 



pressed, as if in time of war, and were provided with clothes and tools 
to be embarked for New Orleans, to work in the gold mines alleged 
to abound there. They were paraded day after day through the streets 
with their pikes and shovels, and then sent off in small detachments 
to the out-ports to be shipped for America. Two-thirds of them never 
reached their destination, but dispersed themselves over the country, 
sold their tools for what they could get, and returned to thdr old 
course of life. In less than three weeks afterwards, one-half of them 
were to be found again in Paris. The manwuvre, however, caused a 



32 EXTBAOKDINART POPTJLAB. DELUSIONS. 

trifling advance in Mississippi stock. Many persons of superabundant 
gullibility believed that operations had begun in earnest in the new 
Golconda, and that gold and silver ingots would again be found in 
France. 

In a constitutional monarchy some surer means would have been 
found for the restoration of public credit. In England, at a subse- 
quent period, when a similar delusion had brought on similar distress, 
how different were the measures taken to repair the evil ; but in 
France, unfortunately, the remedy was left to the authors of the mis- 
chief. The arbitrary will of the regent, which endeavoured to extri- 
cate the country, only plunged it deeper into the mire. All payments 
were ordered to be made in paper, and between the 1st of February 
and the end of May, notes were fabricated to the amount of upwards 
of 1500 millions of livres, or 60,000,000^. sterling. But the alarm 
once sounded, no art could make the people feel the slightest confi- 
dence in paper which was not exchangeable into metal. M. Lambert, 
the president of the parliament of Paris, told the regent to his face 
that he would rather have a hundred thousand livres in gold or silver 
than five millions in the notes of his bank. When such was the general 
feeling, the superabundant issues of paper but increased the evil, by 
rendering still more enormous the disparity between the amount of 
specie and notes in circulation. Coin, which it was the object of the 
regent to depreciate, rose in value on every fresh attempt to diminish 
it. In February, it was judged advisable that the Royal Bank should 
be incorporated with the Company of the Indies. An edict to that 
effect was published and registered by the parliament. The state 
remained the guarantee for the notes of the bank, and no more were 
to be issued without an order in council. All the profits of the bank, 
since the time it had been taken out of Law's hands and made a na- 
tional institution, were given over by the regent to the Company of 
the Indies. This measure had the effect of raising for a short time 
the value of the Louisiana and other shares of the company, but it 
failed in placing public credit on any permanent basis. 

A council of state was held in the beginning of May, at which 
Law, D'Argenson (his colleague in the administration of the finances), 
and all the ministers were present. It was then computed that the 
total amount of notes in circulation was 2600 millions of livres, while 
the coin in the country was not quite equal to half that amount. It 
was evident to the majority of the council that some plan must be 
adopted to equalise the currency. Some proposed that the notes 
should be reduced to the value of the specie, while others proposed 
that the nominal value of the specie should be raised till it was on an 
equality with the paper. Law is said to have opposed both these pro- 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCH£31£. 33 

jectSy but failing in suggesting any other, it was agreed that the notes 
should be depreciated one haK. On the 21st of May, an edict was 
accordingly issued, by which it was decreed that the shares of the 
^ Company of the Indies, and the notes of the bank, should gradually 

diminish in value, till at the end of a year they should only pass cur- 
rent for one-half of their nominal worth. The parliament refused to 
register the edict — the greatest outcry was excited, and the state of 
the country became so alarming, that, as the only means of preserving 
tranquillity, the council of the regency was obliged to stultify its own 
proceedings, by publishing within seven days another edict, restoring 
the notes to their original value. 

^. On the same day (the 27th of May) the bank stopped payment in 

specie. Law and D'Argensou were both dismissed from the ministry. 

^ The weak, vacillating, and cowardly regent threw the blame of all the 

mischief upon Law, who, upon presenting himself at the Palais Royal, 
was refused admittance. At nightfall, however, he was sent for, and 
admitted into the palace by a secret door,* when the regent endea- 

f ' voured to console him, and made all manner of excuses for the severity 

Ji with which in public he had been compelled to treat him. So capri- 

cious was his conduct, that, two days afterwards, he took him publicly 
to the opera, where he sat in the royal box alongside of the regent, 

; who treated him with marked consideration in face of all the people. 

But such was the hatred against Law that the experiment had well 
nigh proved fatal to him. The mob assailed his carriage with stones 
just as he was entering his own door ; and if the coachman had not 
made a sudden jerk into the court-yard, and the domestics closed the 
gate immediately, he would, in all probability, have been dragged out 
and torn to pieces. On the following day, his wife and daughter were 
also assailed by the mob as they were returning in their carriage from 
the races. When the regent was informed of these occurrences he 
sent Law a strong detachment of Swiss guards, who were stationed 
night and day in the court of his residence. The public indignation 
at last increased so much, that Law, finding his own house, even with 
this guard, insecure, took refuge in the Palais Royal, in the apart- 
ments of the regent. 

The Chancellor, D'Aguesseau, who had been dismissed in 1718 for 
his opposition to the projects of Law, was now recalled to aid in the 
restoration of credit. The regent acknowledged too late, that he had 
treated with unjustifiable harshness and mistrust one of the ablest, 
and perhaps the sole honest public man of that corrupt period. He 
had retired ever since his disgrace to his country house at Fresnes, 

f where, in the midst of severe but delightful philosophic studies, he 

* Duclos, Mimoires Secrets de la RSgence. 

3 

} 

\ 



34 ZXTBAOKDlHAitl POFtTLAK 

had ioTgotiein the intrigues of nn unworthy court. Law himself, and 
the Chevalier de Conflans, a gentleman of the regent's household, 
were despatched in a post-cbajse with orders to bring the ei-chaucellor 
to Paris along with them. D'Agueseeau consented to render what 
assistance he could, contraiy to the advice of his friends, who did not 
approve that he should accept any recal to office of which Law was 
the bearer. On his arrival in Paris, five counsellors of the parliament 
were admitted to confer with the Commissary of Finance ; and on 
the 1st of June au order was published abolishing the law which made 
it criminal to amass coin to the 
amount of more than five hundred 
, livres. Eveiy one was permitted 
to have as much specie as he 
pleased. In order that the bank- 
notes might be withdrawn, twen- 
ty-five milhons of new notes were 
created, on the security of the re- 
venues of the city of Paris, at two- 
and-a-half per cent. The bank- 
notes withdrawn were publicly 
burned in front of the HCtel de 
Ville. The new notes were prin- 
•'•MjntuB. cipally of the value of ten livres 

each ; and on the 10th of June 
the bank was re-opened, with a sufficiency of silver coin to give in 
change for them. 

These measures were productive of considerable advantage. All 
the population of Paris hastened to the bapk to get coin for their 
small notes ; and silver becoming scarce, 'thej were paid in copper. 
Very few complained that this was too heavy, although poor fellows 
might be continually seen toiling and sweating along the streets, 
laden with more than they could comfortably carry, in the shape of 
change for fifty livres. The crowds around the bank were so great, 
that hardly a day passed that some one was not pressed to death. On 
the Sth of July, the multitude was so dense and clamorous that the 
guards stationed at the entrance of the MaTarin Gardens closed the 
gate and refused to admit any men's. The crowd became incensed, 
and flung stones through the railings upon the soldiers. The latter, 
incensed in their turn, threatened to fire upon the people. At that 
instant one of them was hit by a stone, and, taking up his piece, he 
fired into the crowd. One man fell dead immediately, and another 
was severely wounded. It was every instant expected that a general 
attack would have been commenced upon the bank ; but the gates of 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 35 

the Mazarin Gardens being opened to the crowd, who saw a whole 
troop of soldiers, with their bayonets fixed ready to receive them, 
they contented themselves by giving vent to their indignation in 
groans and hisses. 

Eight days afterwards the concourse of people was so tremendous 
that fifteen persons were squeezed to death at the doors of the bank. 
The people were so indignant that they took three of the bodies on 
stretchers before them, and proceeded, to the number of seven or eight 
thousand, to the gardens of the Palais Royal, that they might shew 
the regent the misfortunes that he and Law had brought upon the 
country. Law's coachman, who was sitting at the box of his master's 
carriage, in the court-yard of the palace, happened to have more zeal 
than discretion, and, not liking that the mob should abuse his master, 
he said, loud enough to be overheard by several persons, that they 
were all blackguards, and deserved to be hanged. The mob imme- 
diately set upon him, and thinking that Law was in the carriage, 
broke it to pieces. The imprudent coachman narrowly escaped with 
his life. No further mischief was done ; a body of troops making 
their appearance, the crowd quietly dispersed, after an assurance had 
been given by the regent that the three bodies they had brought to 
shew him should be decently buried at his own expense. The parlia^ 
ment was sitting at the time of this uproar, and the president took 
upon himself to go out and see what was the matter. On his return 
he informed the councillors that Law's carriage had been broken by 
the mob. All the members rose simultaneously, and expressed their 
joy by a loud shout, while one man, more zealous in his hatred than 
the rest, exclaimed, ** And Law himsdfy is he torn to pieces /"** 

Much, undoubtedly, depended on the credit of the Company of 
the Indies, which was answerable for so great a sum to the nation. 
It was therefore suggested in the council of the ministry, that any 
privileges which could be granted to enable it to fulfil its engage- 
ments, would be productive of the best results. With this end in 
view, it was proposed that the exclusive privilege of all maritime 
commerce should be secured to it, and 'an edict to that effect was 
published. But it was unfortunately forgotten that by such a mea- 
sure all the merchants of the country would be ruined. The idea of 
such an immense privilege was generally scouted by the nation, and 
petition on petition was presented to the parliament that they would 

* The Dnchess of Orleans gives a different version of this story ; but whichever 
be the true one, the manifestation of such feeling in a legislative assembly was not very 
creditable. She says that the president was so transported with joy, that he was seized 
with a rhyming fit, and, returning into the hall, exclaimed to the members : 

*^ Messieurs I Messieurs t bonne nouveUe f 
Le carrosse de Lass est reduU en canneUe P* 



36 EXTBAOBDINAEY POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

refuse to register the decree. They refused accordingly, and the 
regent, remarking that they did nothing but fan the flame of sedi- 
tion, exiled them to Blois. At the intercession of D'Aguesseau, the 
place of banishment was changed to Pontoise, and thither accordingly 
the councillors repaired, determined to set the regent at defiance. 
They made every arrangement for rendering their temporary exile as 
agreeable as possible. The president gave the most elegant suppers, 
to which he invited all the gayest and wittiest company of Paris. 
Every night *there was a concert and ball for the ladies. The usually 
grave and solemn judges and councillors joined in cards and other 
diversions, leading for several weeks a life of the most extravagant 
pleasure, for no other purpose than to shew the regent of how little 
consequence they deemed their banishment, and that, when they 
willed it, they could make Pontoise a pleasanter residence than 
Paris. 

Of all the nations in the world the French are the most renowned 
for singing over their grievances. Of that country it has been re- 
marked with some truth, that its whole history may be traced in its 
songs. When Law, by the utter failure of his best-laid plans, rendered 
himself obnoxious, satire of course seized hold upon him ; and while 
caricatures of his person appeared in all the shops, the streets re- 
sounded with songs, in which neither he nor the regent was spared. 
Many of these songs were far from decent ; and one of them in par- 
ticular counselled the application of all his notes to the most ignoble 
use to which paper can be applied. But the following, preserved in 
the letters of the Duchess of Orleans, was the best and the most popu- 
lar, and was to be heard for months in all the carrefoura in Paris. 
The application of the chorus is happy enough : 

Au8sit6t que Lass arriva 
Dans notre bonne ville, 
Monsieur le B^gent publia 

Que Lass serait utile 
Pour r^tablir la nation. 
La faridondaine / la faridondon ! 
Mais il nous a tous enrichi, 

Biribi I 
A lafoQon de Barbari, 

Mon ami I 

Ce parpaillot, pour attirer 

Tout I'argent de la France, 
Songea d'abord a s'assurer 

De notre oonfiance. 
II fit son abjuration, 
La faridondaine I la faridondon / 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 37 

Mais le fourbe s*est convert!, 

Biribi I 
A lafaQon de Barhari, 

Mon ami ! 

Lass, le fils ain^ de Satan 

Nous met tous d. Taumdne, 
n nous a pris tout notre argent 

Et n'en rend tl personne. 
Mais le Regent, humain et bon. 
La faridondaine 1 la faridondon I 
Nous rendra ce qu'on nous a pris, 

Biribi i 
A lafaQon de Barbari, 

Mon ami I 

The following epigram is of the same date : 

Lundi, j*achetai des actions ; 
Mardi, je gagnai des millions ; 
Merer edi, j'arrangeai mon manage, 
Jevdi, je pris un Equipage, 
Vendredi, je m'en fus au bal, 
Et Sam^di, a rhdpital. 

Among the caricatures that were abundantly published, and that 
shewed as plainly as graver matters, that the nation had awakened 
to a sense of its folly, was one, a fac-simile of which is preserved in 
the Memoires de la Regence, It was thus described by its author : 
" The ' Goddess of Shares,' in her triumphal car, driven by the God- 
dess of Folly. Those who are drawing the car are impersonations of 
the Mississippi, with his wooden leg, the South Sea, the Bank of 
England, the Company of the West of Senegal, and of various as- 
surances. Lest the car should not roll fast enough, the agents of 
these companies, known by their long fox-tails and their cunning 
looks, turn round the spokes of the wheels, upon which are marked 
the names of the several stocks and their value, sometimes high 
and sometimes low, according to the turns of the wheel. Upon the 
ground are the merchandise, day-books and ledgers of legitimate 
commerce, crushed under the chariot of Folly. Behind is an im- 
mense crowd of persons, of all ages, sexes, and conditions, clamoring 
after Fortune, and fighting with each other to get a portion of the 
shares which she distributes so bountifully among them. In the 
clouds sits a demon, blowing bubbles of soap, which are also the 
objects of the admiration and cupidity of the crowd, who jump upon 
one another's backs to reach them ere they burst. Bight in the path- 
way of the car, and blocking up the passage, stands a large building. 



38 EXTBAORDINABY POPULAB, DELUSIONS. 

with three doors, through one of which it must pass, if it proceeds 
farther, and all the crowd along with it. Over the first door are 
the words, ^ Hdpital des Foux,' over the second, ^ Edpitcd des Mch 
ladesy and over the third, ^ Hdpitcd des GuetixJ"" Another carica- 
ture represented Law sitting in a large cauldron, boiling over the 
flames of popular madness, surrounded by an impetuous multitude, 
who were pouring all their gold and silver into it, and receiving 
gladly in exchange the bits of paper which he distributed among 
them by handfuls. 

While this excitement lasted. Law took good care not to expose 
himself unguarded in the streets. Shut up in the apartments of the 
regent, he was secure from all attack ; and whenever he ventured 
abroad, it was either iiicognito, or in one of the royal carriages, 
with a powerful escort. An amusing anecdote is recorded of the de- 
testation in which he was held by the people, and the ill-treatment 
he would have met had he fallen into their hands. A gentleman 
of the name of Boursel was passing in his carriage down the Rue St. 
Antoine, when his farther progress was stayed by a hackney-coach 
that had blocked up the road. M. Boursel's servant called impa- 
tiently to the hackney-coachman to get out of the way, and, on his 
refusal, struck him a blow on the face. A crowd was soon drawn 
together by the disturbance, and M. Boursel got out of the carriage 
to restore order. The hackney- coachman, imagining that he had 
now another assailant, bethought him of an expedient to rid him- 
self of both, and called out as loudly as he was able, " Help ! help ! 
murder ! murder ! Here are Law and his servant going to kill me ! 
Help I help !" At this cry the people came out of their shops, armed 
with sticks and other weapons, while the mob gathered stones to in- 
flict summary vengeance upon the supposed financier. Happily for 
M. Boursel and his servant, the door of the church of the Jesuits 
stood wide open, and, seeing the fearful odds against them, they 
rushed towards it with all speed. They reached the altar, pursued 
by the people, and would have been ill-treated even there, if, find- 
ing the door open leading to the sacristy, they had not sprang 
through, and closed it after them. The mob were then persuaded 
to leave the church by the alarmed and indignant priests, and find- 
ing M. Boursel's carriage still in the streets, they vented their ill- 
will against it, and did it considerable damage. 

The twenty-five millions secured on the municipal revenues of 
the city of Paris, bearing so low an interest as two and a half per 
cent, were not very popular among the large holders of Mississippi 
stock. The conversion of the securities was, therefore, a work of 
considerable difficulty 5 for many preferred to retain the falling paper 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 39 

of Law's Company, in the hope that a favourable turn might take 
place. On the 15th of August, with a view to hasten the conversion, ' 
an edict was passed, declaring that all notes for sums between one 
thousand and ten thousand livres, should not pass current, except 
for the purchase of annuities and bank accounts, or for the payment 
of instalments still due on the shares of the company. 

In October following another edict was passed, depriving these 
notes of all value whatever after the month of November next en- 
suing. The management of the mint, the farming of the revenue, 
and all the other advantages and privileges of the India, or Missis- 
sippi Company, were taken from them, and they were reduced to a 
mere private company. This was the death-blow to the whole sys- 
tem, which had now got into the hands of its enemies. Law had 
lost all influence in the Council of Finance, and the company, being 
despoiled of its immunities, could no longer hold out the shadow of 
a prospect of being able to fulfil its engagements. All those sus- 
pected of illegal profits at the time the public delusion was at its 
height, were sought out and amerced in heavy fines. It was pre- 
viously ordered that a list of the original proprietors should be made 
out, and that such persons as still retained their shares should place 
them in deposit with the company, and that those who had neglected 
to complete the shares for which they had put down their names, 
should now purchase them of the company, at the rate of 13,500 
livres for each share of 500 livres. Rather than submit to pay this 
enormous sum for stock which was actually at a discount, the share- 
holders packed up all their portable effects, and endeavoured to find 
a refuge in foreign countries. Orders were immediately issued to 
the authorities at the ports and frontiers, to apprehend aU travellers 
who sought to leave the kingdom, and keep them in custody, until 
it was ascertained whether they had any plate or jewellery with 
them, or were concerned. in the late stock-jobbing. Against such 
few as escaped, the punishment of death was recorded, while the most 
arbitrary proceedings were instituted against those who remained. 

Law himself, in a moment of despair, determined to leave a coun- 
try where his life was no longer secure. He at first only demanded 
permission to retire from Paris to one of his country-seats — a per- 
mission which the regent cheerfully granted. The latter was much 
affected at the unhappy turn affairs had taken, but his faith con- 
tinued immoved in the truth and efiicacy of Law's financial system. 
His eyes were opened to his own errors ; and during the few remain- 
ing years of his life he constantly longed for an opportunity of again 
establishing the system upon a securer basis. At Law's last interview 
with the prince, he is reported to have said, — ** I confess that I have 



40 

committed many faults. I committed them becauae I am a man, and 
all men are liable to error ; but I declare to you moat solemnly that 
none of them proceeded from wicked or diehonest motives, and that 
nothing of the kind will be found in the whole course of my con- 



Two or three days after hia departure the regent sent him a verj 
kind letter, permitting him to leave the kingdom whenever he pleased, 
and Stating that he had ordered his passports to be made ready. He 
at the same time offered him any sum of money he might require. 
Law respectfully declined the money, and set out for BrusEelg in a 
post-chaise belonging to Madame de Prie, the mistreas of the Duke 
of Bourbon, escorted by Ax horse-guarda. From thenoe he proceeded 
to Venice, where he remained for some months, the object of the 
greatest curiosity to the people, who believed him to be the possessor 
■ Lilt in a car inwo by cocks ; ftom ff« gnxle Ta/ereel dw Bmuulitlil. 



TH£ inSSISSIPPI SCHEME. 41 

of enormous wealth. No opinion, however, could be more erroneous. 
With more generosity than could have been expected from a man who 
during the greatest part of his life had been a professed gambler, he 
had refused to enrich himself at the expense of a ruined nation. Dur- 
ing the height of the popular frenzy for Mississippi stock, he had never 
doubted of the final sucoess^f his projects in making France the rich- 
est and most powerful nation of Europe. He invested all his gains 
in the purchase of landed property in France — a sure proof of his own 
belief in the ■ stability of his schemes. He had hoarded no plate or 
jewellery, and sent no money, like ^ the dishonest jobbers, to foreign 
countries. His aU, with the .exception of one diamond, worth about 
five or SIX thousand, pounds sterling, was invested in the French soil ; 
and when heleft that'^countiy, he left it almost a beggar. . This fact 
alone ought to rescue his memory from the charge of knavery, so often 
and so unjustly brought against him. 

As»soon as his departure was known, all his estates and his valu- 
able library were confiscated. Among the rest, an annuity of 200,000 
livres/(80(K)Z. sterling) on the lives of his wife and chUdren, which 
had been:purchased for five millions of livres, was forfeited, notwith- 
standing that a special edict, drawn up for the purpose in the days of 
his prosperity, had expressly declared that it should never be confis- 
cated for any cause whatever. Great discontent existed among the 
people that Law had been suffered to escape. The mob «nd the par- 
liament would have been pleased to have seen him hanged. The few 
who had- not suffered by the commercial revolution rejoiced that the 
qttack had left the country^ but all those (and they w^re by far the 
most numerous class) whose fortunes were implicated regretted that 
his intimate knowledge of the distress of the - country, and of the 
causes that had led to it, had^not been rendered more available in 
discovering a remedy. 

At a meeting .of the Council of Finance and the General (council 
of the Regency, documents were laid upon the table, from which it 
appeared that the amount of notes in circulation was 2700 millions. 
The regent was called upon to explain how it happened that there 
was a discrepancy between the dates at whidiAthese issues were made 
and those of the edicts by which they were authorised. He might 
have safely taken the whole blame upon himself, but he preferred 
that an absent man should bear a share of ii^ and. he therefore stated 
that Law, upon his own authority, had issued 1200 millions of notes 
at different times, and that he (the regent),. seeing that the thing had 
been irrevocably done, had screened Law ^y antedating the decrees 
of the council which authorised the augmentation. It would have 
been more to his credit if he had told the whole truth while he was 



42 ESTBAOKDOIAXI POFUL\B DZXUEIONa. 

about it, and acknowledged that it was mainlj through hie estr&va- 
ganoe and impatience that Iaw had been induced to overstep the 
boundB of safe speculation. It nas also ascertained that the national 
debt, on the Ist of January 1721, amounted to upwards of 3100 rail- 
lions of livres, or more than 1 24,000,000^. sterling, the interest upon 
which was 3,196,000i. A commission, or vi»a, was forthwith ap- 
pointed to examine into all the securities of the state creditors, who 
were to be divided into five classes ; the first four comprising those 
who had purchased their securities with real effects, and the latter 
comprising those who could give no proofs that the transactions thej 
had entered into were real and bondjide. The securities of the latter 
were ordered to he destroyed, while those of the first four classes were 
subjected to a most rigid and jealous scrutiny. The result of the 
labours of the vim was a report, in which they counselled the reduc- 
tion of the interest upon these securities to fifty-six millions of livres. 
They justified this advice by a 
statement of the various acts of 
peculation and extortion which 
they had discovered ; and an 
edict to that effect was accor- 
dingly published and duly re- 
gistered by the parliaments of 
the kingdom. 

Another tribunal was after- 
wards established, under the ti- 
tle of the Chwmhre tfe V Arsenal, 
which took cognisance of all the 
malversations committed in the 
financial departments of the go- 
vernment during the late un- 
B'lmsmor., happy period. A Master of 

Bequests, named Palhonet, to- 
gether with the Abb£ Clement, and two clerks in their employ, had 
been concerned in divers acts of peculation to the amount of upwards 
of a million of livres. The first two were sentenced to be beheaded, 
and the latter to be hanged ; but their punishment was afterwards 
commuted into imprisonment for life in the Bastille. Numerous 
other acts of dishonesty were discovered, and punished by fine and 
imprisonment. 

P'Argenson shared with Law and the r^ent the unpopularity 
which had alighted upon all those concerned in the Misassippi mad- 
ness. He was dismissed from his post of Chancellor to make room for 
D'Aguesseau ; but he retained the title of Keeper of the Seals, and 



THE MISSISSIPPI SCHEME. 43 

was allowed to attend the councils whenever he pleased. He thought 
it better, however, to withdraw from Paris, and live for a time a life 
of seclusion at his country-seat. But he was not formed for retire- 
ment ; and becoming moody and discontented, he aggravated a disease 
under which he had long laboured, and died in less than a twelve- 
month. The populace of Paris so detested him, that they carried 
their hatred even to his grave. As his funeral procession passed to 
the church of St. Nicholas du Chardonneret, the buiying-place of his 
family, it was beset by a riotous mob, and his two sons, who were 
; following as chief mourners, were obliged to drive as fast as they were 
able down a by-street to escape personal violence. 

As regards Law, he for some time entertained a hope that he 
should be recalled to France to aid in establishing its credit upon a 
firmer basis. The death of the regent in 1723, who expired suddenly 
as he was sitting by the fireside conversing with his mistress, the 
Duchess de Phalaris, deprived him of that hope, and he was reduced 
to lead his former life of gambling. He was more than once obliged 
to pawn his diamond, the sole remnant of his vast wealth, but suc- 
cessful play generally enabled him to redeem it. Being persecuted 
by his creditors at Rome, he proceeded to Copenhagen, where he re- 
ceived permission from the Enghsh ministry to reside in his native 
country, his pardon for the murder of Mr. Wilson having been sent 
over to him in 1719. He was brought over in the admiral's ship — a 
circumstance which gave occasion for a short debate in the House of 
Lords. Earl Coningsby complained that a man who had renounced 
both his country and his religion should have been treated with such 
honour, and expressed his belief that his presence in England, at a 
time when the people were so bewildered by the nefarious practices 
of the South-Sea directors, would be attended with no little danger. 
He gave notice of a motion on the subject ; but it was allowed to 
drop, no other member of the House having the slightest participa- 
tion in his lordship's fears. Law remained for about four years in 
England, and then proceeded to Venice, where he died in 1729, in 
very embarrassed circumstances. The following epitaph was written 
at the time : 

" Ci git cet Ecossais c^l^bre, 

Ce calculateur sans ^gal^ 
Qui, par les regies de I'alg^bre, 

A mis la France k ITidpital." 

His brother, William Law, who had been concerned with him in 
the administration both of the bank and the Louisiana Company, was 
imprisoned in the Bastille for alleged malversation, but no guilt was 
ever proved against him. He was liberated after fifteen months, and 



KXTKA.OKDD(ART 



became the founder of a family, whioL is BtiU knoirn in Prance under 
the title of Marquisei of lAuriston. 



In the next chapter will be found an account of the madness which 

infected the people of England at the same time, and under rery simi- 
lar circumataiiceB, but ^hich, thanks to. the energies and good senae 
of a constitutional government, was attended with results for less 
disastrous than those which ware seen in France. 

• Neck or oriUiln;, or downfall of the Mississippi CojD^nny.—Fnm a Prixl irs Mr. 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 



Dtdieliigfallimil 


avarice creepl 


Bon, 


Bpread. lilce . low-t. 


n mist, and 




Statesmen indpBtn 


ols piled alike 


the stocks, 




hared alike th 


boi; 


AirijndKcaJobted, 


■idblahop^bi 




And migbWdutes packed «r<lsr 


r balf^wro 



The 9«uth-Sea Companj was originated by the celebrated Harley 
Earl of Oxford, in the year 1711, with the view of restoring public 
credit, which had Buffered by the dismissal of the Whig ministry, and 
of providing for the discharge of the army and navy debentures, and 
other parts of the floating debt, amounting to nearly ten millioua 
sterling. A company of merchants, at that time without a name, 
took this debt upon themselves, and the government agreed to secTire 
them for a certaiii period the interest of six per cent. To provide 
for this interest, amounting to 600,000i. per annum, the duties upon 
wines, vinegar, India goods, wrought silks, tobacco, whale-fins, and 
some other articles, were rendered permanent. The monopoly of the 
trade to the South Seas was granted, and the company, being incor- 
porated by act of parliament, aasumed the title by which it has ever 
since been known. The minister took great credit to himself for bis 



46 IXIBAORIIINAIIY POPruA DELUSIONS. 

share in this transaction, and tlie scheme was alnaja called bj hia 
flatterers " the Eafl of Oxford's masterpiece." 

Even at this early period of its history the most vidonatj ideas 
were formed b; the company and the public of the immense riches of 
the eftstem coast of South 
America. Every body had 
heard of the gold and silver 
mines of Peru and Mexico ; 
every one believed them to 
be inexhaustible, and that it 
was only necessary to send 
the manufactures of Eng- 
land t« the coast to be repaid 
a hundred fold in gold and 
silver ingots by the natives. 
A report,indu8lnoiiBly spread, 
I that Spain was vtiUing to con- 
cede four porte on the coasts 
of Chili and Peru for the pur- 
uiui >i>& a> mniiii. poses of traffic, increased the 

general confidence, and for 
many years the South-Sea Company's stock was in high fiivour, 

Philip T. of Spain, however, never had any intention of admit- 
ting the EngUsh to a free trade in the ports of Spanish America. 
Negotiadons were set on foot, but their only result was the ommtUo 
contmct, or the privilege of supplying the colonies with negroes for 
thirty years, and of sending once a year a vessel, limited both as to 
tonnage and value of cargo, to trade with Mexico, Peru, or Chili. 
The latter permission was only granted upon the hard condition, that 
the King of Spain should enjoy one-fourth of the profits, and a tax of 
five per cent on the remainder. This was a great disappointment to 
the Earl of Oxford and his party, who were reminded much oftener 
than they found agreeable of the 

" Paiisrinnt iiiob(m, nafriiitr rirftcu/aj muj." 

But the public confidence in the South-Sea Company was not shaken. 

The Earl of Oxford declared that Spain would permit two ships, in 
addition to the annual ship, to carry out merchandise during the first 
year ; and a list was published, in which all the ports and harbours 
of these coasts were pompously set forth as open to the trade of Great 
Britiun. The first voyage of the annual ship was not made 611 the 
year 1717, and in the following year the trade was suppressed by the 
rupture with Spsin. 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 47 

The king's speech, at the opening of the session of 1717, made 
pointed allusion to the state of public credit, and recommended that 
proper measures should be taken to reduce the national debt. The 
two great monetary corporations, the South-Sea Company and the 
Bank of England, made proposals to parliament on the 20th of May 
ensuing. The South-Sea Company prayed that their capital stock of 
ten millions might be increased to twelve, by subscription or other- 
wise, and oflfered to accept ^Ye per cent instead of six upon the whole 
amount. The bank made proposals equally advantageous. The 
house debated for some time, and finally three acts were passed, called 
the South-Sea Act, the Bank Act, and the General Fund Act. By 
the first, the proposals of the South-Sea Company were accepted, and 
that body held itself ready to advance the sum of two millions towards 
discharging the principal and interest of the debt due by the state for 
the four lottery funds of the ninth and tenth years of Queen Anne. 
By the second act, the bank received a lower rate of interest for the 
sum of 1,775,027^. I5s, due to it by the state, and agreed to deliver up 
to be cancelled as many exchequer bills as amounted to two millions 
sterling, and to accept of an annuity of one hundred thousand pounds, 
being after the rate of five per cent, the whole redeemable at one 
year's notice. They were further required to be ready to advance^ in 
case of need, a sum not exceeding 2,500,000?. upon the same terms 
of five per cent interest, redeemable by parliament. The General 
Fund Act recited the various deficiencies, which were to be made 
good by the aids derived from the foregoing sources. 

The name of the South-Sea Company was thus continually before 
the public. Though their trade with the South American States pro- 
duced little or no augmentation of their revenues, they continued to 
flourish as a monetary corporation. Their stock was in high request, 
and the directors, buoyed up with success, began to think of new 
means for extendi^ their influence. The Missi^ippi scheme of John 
Law, which so dazzled and captivated the French people, inspired 
them with an idea that they could carry on the same game in Eng- 
land. The anticipated failure of his plans did not divert them from 
their intention. Wise in their own conceit, they imagined they could 
avoid his faults, carry on their schemes for ever, and stretch the cord 
of credit to its extremest tension, without causing it to snap asunder. 

It was while Law's plan was at its greatest height of popularity, 
while people were crowding in thousands to the Rue Quincampoix, 
and ruining themselves with frantic eagerness, that the South-Sea 
directors laid before parliament their famous plan for paying off the 
national debt. Visions of boundless wealth floated before the fasci- 
nated eyes of the people in the two most celebrated countries of 



48 EXTBAOKDINAB-T POPTJLAB DELUSIONS. 

Europe. The English commenced their career of extrava^nce some- 
what later than the French ; but as soon as the delirium seized them, 
they were determined not to be outdone. Upon the 22d of January, 
1720, the House of Commons resolved itself into a committee of the 
whole house, to take into consideration that part of the king^s speech 
at the opening of the session which related to the public debts, and 
the proposal of the South- Sea Company towards the redemption and 
sinking of the same. The proposal set forth at great length, and 
under several heads, the debts of the state, amounting to 30,981,712^., 
which the company were anxious to take upon themselves, upon con- 
sideration of five per cent per annum, secured to them until Mid- 
summer 1727 ; after which time, the whole was to become redeem- 
able at the pleasure of the legislature, and the interest to be reduced 
to four per cent. The proposal was received with great favour ; but 
the Bank of England had many friends in the House of Commons, 
who were desirous that that body should share in the advantages that 
were likely to accrue. On behalf of this corporation it was repre- 
sented, that they had performed great and eminent services to the 
state in the most difficult times, and deserved, at least, that if any 
advantage was to be made by public bargains of this nature, they 
should be preferred before a company that had never done any thing 
for the nation. The further consideration of the matter was accord- 
ingly postponed for ^ye days. In the mean time, a plan was drawn 
up by the governors of the bank. The South-Sea Company, afraid 
that the bank might offer still more advantageous terms to the 
government than themselves, reconsidered their former proposal, and 
made some alterations in it, which they hoped would render it more 
acceptable. The principal change was a stipulation that the govern- 
ment might redeem these debts at the expiration of four years, in- 
stead of seven, as at first suggested. The bank resolved not to be 
outbidden in this singular auction, and the governors also reconsidered 
their first proposal, and sent in a new one. 

Thus, each corporation having made two proposals, the house 
began to deliberate. Mr. Robert Walpole was the chief speaker in 
favour of the bank, and Mr. Aislabie, the Chancellor of the Exche- 
quer, the principal advocate on behalf of the South-Sea Company. 
It was resolved, on the 2d of February, that the proposals of the latter 
were most advantageous to the country. They were accordingly 
received, and leave was given to bring in a bill to that effect. 

Exchange Alley was in a fever of excitement. The company*s 
stock, which had been at a hundred and thirty the previous day, 
gradually rose to three hundred, and continued to rise with the most 
astonishing rapidity during the whole time that the bill in its several 



THE SODTH-SEl. BUBBLE. 49 

etagea was under discuswion. Mr, Walpole wa* almost the only states- 
man in the HoueewhoBpoke out boldly against it. He warned them, 
in eloquent and Bolemn language, of the evils that would ensue. It 
countenanced, he wud, "the dangerous practice of stock- jobbing, and 
would diTert the genius of the nation irom trade and induatry. It 
would hold out a dangerous lure to decoy the unwary to their ruin, 
by making tliem part with the earnings of their labour for a prospect 
of imaginary wealth. The great principle of the project was an evil 
of first-rate magnitude ; it waa to raise artificially the value of the 
stock, by exciting and keeping up a general infatuation, and by pro- 
mising dividends out of funds which could never be adequate to the 
purpose." In a prophetic spirit he 
added, that if the plan succeeded, 
the directors would become masters 
of the government, form a new and 
absolute aristocracy in the king- 
dom, and control the resolutioua of 
the legislature. If it failed, which 
he was convinced it would, the re- 
sult would bring general discontent 
and ruin upon the country. Such 
would be the delusion, that when , 
the evil day came, as come it would, ! 
the people would start up, as from 
a dream, and ask themselves if these 

things could have been true. All his ,,, aDim mipou. 

eloquence was in vain. He was looked 

upon as a false prophet, or compared to the hoarse raven, croaking 
omens of evil. His friends, howerer, compared him to Cassandra, 
predicting evils which would only be believed when they came home 
to men's hearths, and stared them in the face at their own boards. 
Although, in former times, the house had listened with the utmost 
attention to every word that feU from his lips, the benches became 
deserted when it was known that he would speak on the South-Sea 

The bill was two months in its progress through the House of 
Commons. During this time every exertion was made by the directors 
and their friends, and more especially by the chairman, the noted Sir 
John Blunt, to raise the price of the stock. The most extravagant 
rumours were in circulation. Treaties between England and Spain 
were spoken of, whereby the latter was to grant a free trade to all her 
colonies ; and the rich produce of the mines of Potosi-fa-Paz was to 
be brought to England until silver should become almost as plentiful 



50 EXTBA0BD12JABY POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

as iron. For cotton and woollen goods, with which we could supply 
them in abundance, the dwellers in Mexico were to empty their golden 
mines. The company of merchants trading to the South Seas would 
be the richest the world ever saw, and every hundred pounds invested 
in it would produce hundreds per annum to the stockholder. At last 
the stock was raised by these means to near four hundred j but, after 
fluctuating a good deal, settled at three hundred and thirty, at which 
price it remained when the bill passed the Commons by a majority of 
172 against 55. . 

In the House of Lords the bill was hurried through all its stages 
with unexampled rapidity. On the 4th of April it was read a first 
time; on the 5th, it was read a second time; on the 6th, it was com- 
mitted ; and on the 7th, was read a third time and passed. 

Several peers spoke warmly against the scheme ; but their warn- 
ings fell upon dull, cold ears. A speculating frenzy had seized them 
as well as the plebeians. Lord North and Grey said the bill was unjust 
in its nature, and might prove fatal in its consequences, being calcu- 
lated to enrich the few and impoverish the many. The Duke of 
Wharton followed; but, as he only retailed at second-hand the argu- 
ments so eloquently stated by Walpole in the Lower House, he was 
not listened to with even the same attention that had been bestowed 
upon Lord l^orth and Grey. Earl Cowper followed on the same side, 
and compared the bill to the famous horse of the siege of Troy. Like 
that, it was ushered in and received with great pomp and acclama- 
tions of joy, but bore within it treachery and destruction. The Earl 
of Sunderland endeavoured to answer all objections; and on the ques- 
tion being put, there appeared only seventeen peers against, and eighty- 
three in favour of the project. The very same day on which it passed 
the Lords, it received the royal assent, and became the law of the 
land. 

It seemed at that time as if the whole nation had turned stock- 
jobbers. Exchange Alley was every day blocked up by crowds, and 
Cornhill was impassable for the number of carriages. Every body 
came to purchase stock. " Every fool aspired to be a knave." In 
the words of a ballad published at the time, and sung about the 
streets,* 

" Then stars and garters did appear 
Among the meajier rabble ; 
To buy and sell, to see and hear 
The Jews and Gentiles squabble. 

* A SouthrSea BaUad; or, Merry RemarTcs up<m Exchange Alley Bubbles. To a new Tune 
called " The Grand Elixir ; or, tlie JPhilosopher's Stone discovered" 



THE SOniH-SEA BTIBBI.B, 51 

The greatest ladies tliithei' came. 

And plied in ohariota daily, 
Or pawned their jewels for a aum 

To TBnture in the Alley." 

The inordiimte thirst of gain that had afflicted all ranks of Bocietj 
was not to be slaked even in the South Sea. Other achemes, of the 
most extravagant kind, were started. The share-liHta were speedily 



filled up, and ai 

every meajis we 
market. 

Contrary to all espectation, 8outh-Sea stock fell when the bill 
received the royal aasent. On the 7th of April the shares were quoted 
at three hundred and ten, and on the following day at two hundred 
and ninety. Already the directors had tasted the profits of their 
scheme, and it was not likely that they should quietly aJlow the stock 
to find its natural level without an effort to raise it. Immediately 
their busy emissaries were set to work. Every person interested in 
the success of the project endeavoured to draw a knot of listeners 
around him, to whom he expatiated on the treasures of the South 
American seas. Exchange Alley was crowded with attentive groups. 
One rumour alone, asserted with the utmost confidence, had an im- 



52 EXTBAOKDINASY POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

mediate effect upon the stock. It was said that Earl Stanhope had 
received overtures in France from the Spanish government to exchange 
Gibraltar and Port Mahon for some places on the coast of Peru, for 
the security and enlargement of the trade in the South Seas. Instead 
of one anniial ship trading to those ports, and allowing the king of 
Spain twenty-five per cent out of the pfofits, the company might 
build and charter as many ships as they pleased, and pay no per cent- 
age whatever to any foreign potentate. 

"Visions of ingots danced before their eyes," 

and stock rose rapidly. On the 12th of April, five days after the bill 
had become law, the directors opened their books for a subscription 
of a million, at the rate of 300^. for every 100?. capital. Such was 
the concourse of persons of all ranks, that this first subscription was 
found to amount to above two millions of original stock. It was to 
be paid at five payments, of 60L each for every 100?. In a few days 
the stock advanced to three hundred and forty, and the subscriptions 
were sold for double the price of the first payment. To raise the stock 
still higher, it was declared, in a general court of directors, on the 
21st of April, that the midsummer dividend should be ten per cent, 
and that all subscriptions should be entitled to the same. These re- 
solutions answering the end designed, the directors, to improve the 
infatuation of the monied men, opened their books for a second sub- 
scription of a million, at four hundred per cent. Such was the frantic 
eagerness of people of every class to speculate in these funds, that in 
the course of a few hours no less than a million and a half was sub- 
scribed at that rate. 

In the mean time, innumerable joint-stock companies started up 
every where. They soon received the name of Bubbles, the most 
appropriate that imagination could devise. The populace are often 
most happy in the nicknames they employ. None could be more apt 
than that of Bubbles. Some of them lasted for a week or a fortnight, 
and were no more heard of, while others could not even live out that 
short span of existence. Every evening produced new schemes, and 
every morning new projects. The highest of the aristocracy were as 
eager in this hot pursuit of gain as the most plodding jobber in Com- 
hiU. The Prince of Wales became governor of one company, and 
is said to have cleared 40,000?. by his speculations.* The Duke of 
Bridgewater started a scheme for the improvement of London and 
Westminster, and the Duke of Chandos another. There were nearly 
a hundred different projects, each more extravagant and deceptive 
than the other. To use the words of the Political State, they were 

♦ Coxe's Walpole, Correspondence Iwtween Mr. Secretary Craggs and Earl Stanhope. 



THE SOTJTH-S£A BUBBLE. 53 

** set on foot and promoted by crafty knaves, then pursued by multi- 
tudes of covetous fools, and at last appeared to be, in effect, what 
their vulgar appellation denoted them to be — bubbles and mere 
cheats." It was computed that near one miUiou and a half sterling 
was won and lost by these unwarrantable practices, to the impoverish- 
ment of many a fool, and the enriching of many a rogue. 

Some of these schemes were plausible enough, and, had they been 
undertaken at a time when the public mind was unexcited, might 
have been pursued with advantage to all concerned. But they were 
established merely with the view of raising the shares in the market. 
The projectors took the first opportunity of a rise to sell out, and next 
morning the scheme was at an end. Maitland, in his History of 
London^ gravely informs us, that one of the projects which received 
great encouragement, was for the establishment of a company " to 
make deal boards out of saw-dust." This is no doubt intended as 
a joke ; but there is abundance of evidence to shew that dozens of 
schemes, hardly a whit more reasonable, lived their little day, ruining 
hundreds ere they fell. One of them was for a wheel for perpetual 
motion — capital one million ; another was " for encouraging the 
breed of horses in England, and improving of glebe and church lands, 
and repairing and rebuilding parsonage and vicarage houses." Why 
the clergy, who were so mainly interested in the latter clause, should 
have taken so much interest in the first, is only to be explained on 
the supposition that the scheme was projected by a knot of the fox- 
hunting parsons, once so common in England. The shares of this 
company were rapidly subscribed for. But the most absurd and pre- 
posterous of all, and which shewed, more completely than any other, 
the utter madness of the people, was one started by an unknown ad- 
venturer, entitled " A com/pany for carry irt>g on an undertaking of 
great advantagey hut Tiobody to know what it is" Were not the fact 
stated by scores of credible witnesses, it would be impossible to be- 
lieve that any person could have been duped by such a project. The 
man of genius who essayed this bold and successful inroad upon public 
credulity, merely stated in his prospectus that the required capital 
was half a million, in five thousand shares of 100^. each, deposit 2^. 
per share. Each subscriber, paying his deposit, would be entitled to 
100^. per annum per share. How this immense profit was to be ob- 
tained, he did not condescend to inform them at that time, but pro- 
mised that in a month full particulars should be duly announced, and 
a call made for the remaining 98^. of the subscription. Next morning, 
at nine o'clock, this great man opened an office in OomhiU. Crowds 
of people beset his door, and when he shut up at three o'clock, he 
found that no less than one thousand shares had been subscribed for, 



54 EXTBAOEDINABI POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

and the deposits paid. He was thus, in five hours, the winner of 
2000?. He was philosopher enough to be contented with his venture, 
and set off the same evening for the Continent. He was never heard 
of again. 

Well might Swift exclaim, comparing Change Alley to a gulf in 
the South Sea : 

'' Subscribers here by thousands floaty 

And jostle one another down. 

Each paddling in his leaky boat, 

And here they fish for gold and drown. 

Now buried in the depths below, 

Now mounted up to heaven again. 
They reel and stagger to and fro, 

At their wit's end, like drunken men. 

Meantime, secure on Garraway cliffs, 

A savage race, by shipwrecks fed, 
lie waiting for the foundered skiffs, 

And strip the bodies of the dead." 

Another fraud that was very successful was that of the " Globe 
PermitSy" as they were called. They were nothing more than square 
pieces of playing-cards, on which was the impression of a seal, in wax, 
bearing the sign of the Globe Tavern, in the neighbourhood of Ex- 
change Alley, with the inscription of " Sail-Cloth Permits." The 
possessors enjoyed no other advantage from them than permission to 
subscribe at some future time to a new sail-cloth manufactory, pro- 
jected by one who was then known to be a man of fortune, but who 
was afterwards involved in the peculation and punishment of the 
South-Sea directors. These permits sold for as much as sixty guineas 
in the Alley. 

Persons of distinction, of both sexes, were deeply engaged in all 
these bubbles ; those of the male sex going to taverns and coffee- 
houses to meet their brokers, and the ladies resorting for the same 
purpose to the shops of milliners and haberdashers. But it did not 
follow that all these people believed in the feasibility of the schemes 
to which they subscribed ; it was enough for their purpose that their 
shares would, by stock-jobbing arts, be soon raised to a premium, when 
they got rid of them with all expedition to the really credulous. So 
great was the confusion of the crowd in the alley, that shares in the 
same bubble were known to have been sold at the same instant ten 
per cent higher at one end of the alley than at the other. Sensible 
men beheld the extraordinary infatuation of the people with sorrow 
and alarm. There were some both in and out of parliament who fore- 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 55 

saw clearly the ruin that was impending. Mr. Walpole did not cease 
his gloomy forebodings. His fears were shared by all the thinking 
few, and impressed most forcibly upon the government. On the 11th 
of June, the day the parliament rose, the king published a proclama- 
tion, declaring that all these unlawful projects should be deemed pub- 
lic nuisances, and prosecuted accordingly, and forbidding any broker, 
under a penalty of five hundred pounds, from buying or selling any 
shares in them. Notwithstanding this proclamation, roguish specu- 
lators still carried them on, and the deluded people still encouraged 
them. On the 12th of July, an order of the Lords Justices assembled 
in privy council was published, dismissing all the petitions that had 
been presented for patents and charters, and dissolving all the bubble 
companies. The following copy of their lordships* order, containing 
a list of all these nefarious projects, will not be deemed uninteresting 
at the present time, when, at periodic intervals, there is but too much 
tendency in the public mind to indulge in similar practices : 

" At the Council Chamber, Whitehall, the 12th day of July, 
1720. Present, their Excellencies the Lords Justices in 
Council. 

^' Their Excellencies the Lords Justices, in council, taking into 
consideration the many inconveniences arising to the public from 
several projects set on foot for raising of joint-stock for various pur- 
poses, and that a great many of his majesty's subjects have been 
drawn in to part with their money on pretence of assurances that 
their petitions for patents and charters to enable them to carry on 
the same would be granted : to prevent such impositions, their excel- 
lencies this day ordered the said several petitions, together with such 
reports from the Board of Trade, and from his majesty's attorney and 
solicitor-general, as had been obtained thereon, to be laid before 
them ; and after mature consideration thereof, were pleased, by advice 
of his majesty's privy council, to order that the said petitions be dis- 
missed, which are as follow : 

"1. Petition of several persons, praying letters patent for carry- 
ing on a fishing trade by the name of the Grand Fishery of Great 
Britain. 

" 2. Petition of the Company of the Royal Fishery of England, 
praying letters patent for such further powers as will effectually con- 
tribute to carry on the said fishery. 

" Petition of George James, on behalf of himself and divers per- 
sons of distinction concerned in a national fishery, praying letters 
patent of incorporation, to enable them to carry on the same. 

"4. Petition of several merchants, traders, and others, whose 



56 EXTEAOKDINiJlT POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

names are thereunto subscribed, praying to be incorporated for reviv- 
ing and carrying on a whale fishery to Greenland and elsewhere. 

" 5. Petition of Sir John Lambert and others thereto subscribing, 
on behalf of themselves and a great number of merchants, praying to 
be incorporated for carrying on a Greenland trade^ and particularly a 
whale fishery in Davis's Straits. 

" 6. Another petition for a Greenland trade. 

" 7. Petition of several merchants, gentlemen, and citizens, pray- 
ing to be incorporated for buying and building of ships to let or 
freight. 

" 8. Petition of Samuel Antrim and others, praying for letters 
patent for sowing hemp and flax. 

'* 9. Petition of several merchants, masters of ships, sail-makers, 
and manufacturers of sail-cloth, praying a charter of incorporation, 
to enable them to carry on and promote the said manufactory by a 
joint-stock. 

" 10. Petition of Thomas Boyd and several hundred merchants, 
owners and masters of ships, sail-makers, weavers, and other traders, 
praying a charter of incorporation, empowering them to borrow 
money for purchasing lands, in order to the manufstcturing sail-cloth 
and fine holland. 

"11. Petition on behalf of several persons interested in a patent 
granted by the late King William and Queen Mary for the making of 
linen and sail-cloth, praying that no charter may be granted to any 
persons whatsoever for making sail-cloth, but that the privilege now 
enjoyed by them may be confirmed, and likewise an additional power 
to carry on the cotton and cotton-silk manufactures. 

** 12. Petition of several citizens, merchants, and traders in Lon- 
don, and others, subscribers to a British stock for a general insurance 
from fire in any part of England, praying to be incorporated for carry- 
ing on the said undertaking. 

** 13. Petition of several of his majesty's loyal subjects of the city 
of London and other parts of Great Britain, praying to be incorporated 
for carrying on a general insurance from losses by fire within the king- 
dom of England. 

" 14. Petition of Thomas Burges and others his majesty's subjects 
thereto subscribing, in behalf of themselves and others, subscribers to 
a fund of 1,200,000^. for carrying on a trade to his majesty's German 
dominions, praying to be incorporated by the name of the Harburg 
Company. 

"15. Petition of Edward Jones, a dealer in timber, on behalf of 
himself and others, praying to be incorporated for the importation of 
timber from Germany. 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 57 

'^ 16. Petition of several merchants of London, praying a charter 
of incorporation for carrying on a salt-work. 

"17. Petition of Captain Macphedris of London, merchant, on 
behalf of himself and several merchants, clothiers, hatters, dyers, and 
other traders, praying a charter of incorporation empowering them to 
raise a sufficient sum of money to purchase lands for planting and 
rearing a wood called madder, for the use of dyers. 

"18. Petition of Joseph Galendo of London, snuff-maker, pray- 
ing a patent for his invention to prepare and cure Virginia tobacco 
for snuff in Virginia, and making it into the same in all his majesty's 
dominions." 

LIST OF BUBBLES. 

The^following Bubble-Companies were by the same order declared 
to be illegal, and abolished accordingly : 

1. For the importation of Swedish iron. 

2. For supplying London with sea-coal. Capital, three millions. 

3. For building and rebuilding houses throughout all England. 
Capital, three millions. 

4. For making of muslin. 

6. For carrying on and improving the British alum-works. 

6. For effectually settling the island of Blanco and Sal Tartagus. 

7. For supplying the town of Deal with fresh water. 

8. For the importation of Flanders lace. 

9. For improvement of lands in Great Britain. Capital, four 
millions. 

10. For encouraging the breed of horses in England, and im- 
proving of glebe and church lands, and for repairing and rebuilding 
parsonage and vicarage houses. 

11. For making of iron and steel in Great Britain. 

12. For improving the land in the county of Flint. Capital, one 
million. 

13. For purchasing lands to build on. Capital, two millions. 

14. For trading in hair. 

15. For erecting salt-works in Holy Island. Capital, two 
millions. 

16. For buying and selling estates, and lending money on mort- 
gage. 

17. For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage ; but no- 
body to know what it is. 

18. For paving the streets of London. Capital, two millions. 

19. For furnishing funerals to any part of Great ^Britain. 

20. For buying and selling lands and lending money at interest. 
Capital, five millions. 



58 EXTBAOEDINARY POPFIAU DELUSIONS. 

21. For carrying on the royal fishery of Great Britain. Capital, 
ten millions. 

22. For assuring of seamen's wages. 

23. For erecting loan-offices for the assistance and encourage- 
ment of the industrious. Capital, two millions. 

24. For purchasing and improving leaseable lands. Capital, four 
millions. 

25. For importing pitch and tar, and other naval stores, from 
North Britain and America. 

26. For the clothing, felt, and pantile trade. 

27. For purchasing and improving a manor and royalty in Essex. 

28. For insuring of horses. Capital, two millions. 

29. For exporting the woollen manu&cture, and importing cop- 
per, brass, and iron. Capital, four millions. 

30. For a grand dispensary. Capital, three millions. 

31. For erecting mills and purchasing lead-mines. Capital, two 
millions. 

32. For improving the art of making soap. 

33. For a settlement on the island of Santa Cruz. 

34. For sinking pits and smelting lead ore in Derbyshire. 

35. For making glass bottles and other glass. 

36. For a wheel for perpetual motion. Capital, one million. 

37. For improving of gardens. 

38. For insuring and increasing children's fortunes. 

39. For entering and loading goods at the Custom-house, and for 
negotiating business for merchants. 

40. For carrying on a woollen manufacture in the North of Eng- 
land. 

41. For importing walnut-trees from Virginia. Capital, two 

millions. 

42. For making Manchester stuffs of thread and cotton. 

43. For making Joppa and Castile soap. 

44. For improving the wrought-iron and steel manufactures of 
this kingdom. Capital four millions. 

45. For dealing in lace, hollands, cambrics, lawns, &c. Capital, 
two millions. 

46. For trading in and improving certain commodities of the pro- 
duce of this kingdom, &c. Capital three millions. 

47. For supplying the London markets with cattle. 

48. For making looking-glasses, coach-glasses, &c. Capital, two 
millions. 

49. For working the tin and lead mines in Cornwall and Derby- 
shire. 



THE SOUTH-SEA BTTBBLE, 59 

50. For making rape-oil. 

51. For importing beaver fur. Capital, two millions. 

52. For making pasteboard and packing-paper. 

53. For importing of oils and other materials used in the woollen 
manufacture. 

54. For improving and increasing the silk manufactures. 

55. For lending money on stock, annuities, tallies, &c. 

56. For paying pensions to widows and others, at a small dis- 
count. Capital, two millions. 

57. For improving malt liquors. Capital, four millions. 

58. For a grand American fishery. 

59. For purchasing and improving the fenny lands in Lincobi- 
shire. Capital, two millions. 

60. For improving the paper manufacture of Great Britain. 

61. The Bottomry Company. 

62. For drying malt by hot air. 

63. For carrying on a trade in the river Oronooko. 

64. For the more effectual making of baize, in Colchester and 
other parts of Great Britain. 

65. For buying of naval stores, supplying the victualling, and 
paying the wages of the workmen. 

66. For employing poor artificers, and furnishing merchants and 
others with watches. 

67. For improvement of tillage and the breed of cattle. 

68. Another for the improvement of our breed in horses. 

69. Another for a horse-insurance. 

70. For carrying on the com trade of Great Britain. 

71. For insuring to all masters and mistresses the losses they may 
sustain by servants. Capital, three millions. 

72. For erecting houses or hospitals for taking in and maintain- 
ing illegitimate children. Capital, two millions. 

73. For bleaching coarse sugars, without the use of fire or loss of 
substance. 

74. For building turnpikes and wharfs in Great Britain. 

75. For insuring from thefts and robberies. 

76. For extracting silver fromlead. 

77. For making china and delft ware. Capital, one million. 

78. For importing tobacco, and exporting it again to Sweden 
and the north of Europe. Capital, four millions. 

79. For making iron with pit coal. 

80. For furnishing the cities of London and Westminster with 
hay and straw. Capital, three millions. 

81. For a sail and packing-cloth manufactory in Ireland. 



60 EXTEAOBDIKiBI lOFVLAB DKLDSIOKS, 

82. For taking up baJkst. 

83. For bujing Eind fitting out abips to euppress pirates. 

84. For the importatioa of timber from W^es. Capital, two 
millions. 

85. For rook-aalt. 

86. For the tranBmut&tioii of quickulver into a malleable fine 
mettil. 

BeddeB these bubbles, manj others sprang up dailj, in spit« of 
the coodemmition of the government and the ridicule of the rtill 



sane portion of the public. The print-Bhops teemed with caricatures, 
and the newspapers with epigrams and satires, upon the prevalent 

■ St«ck-]obb1ii|i; Card, or the hnmoDrs ofChinee AUey. Copled'c sm a frint called 



THE eOUTH-3£A B 



follj. An ingenious cardmaker published a pack of South-S«a play- 
ing-cards, which are now estremely rare, each card contiuning, be- 
^des the usual figures, of a veTT sujall size, in one comer, a carica- 
ture of a bubble-company, with appropriate veraes underneath. One 



of the moat fiunous bubbles was " Puckle's Machine Company," for 
diaoharging round and square cannon-balls and bullets, and making 
a total reTolution in the art of war. Its pretenaioua to public favour 
were thus summed up on the eight of epadea ; 

'^A tWQ invention to d«tn>y the orowd 
Of fbols at home instead of fools abroad. 
Fear not, my triende, this terrible machine. 
They're only wounded who have shares tberMn," 



•s' Medley, pi 



li by Cscringtan DitwleB. 



sHrles ofbobble 



62 BXTatORMNAEY POPDLiK DBLDSIOMS. 

The nine of he&rU was a caricature of tlie English Copper and 
Brass Gompan;, with the following epigram : 

"The headlong fool that wants to be a swopper 
Of gold and ailTor coin for Fnglinh copper. 
May, in Change Alley, prove himeelf an mm. 
And give rich metal for adultrute biass." 

The eight of diamonds celebrated the company for the colonisa- 
tion of Acadia, with this doggrel : 

" He that is rich and wants to Ibol awa; 
A good round sum in North America, 
Let him subecribe himBelf a headlong sharer. 
And aaaea' ears ahall honour him or bearer." 

And in a similar style every card of the pack exposed some knavish 
scheme, and ridiculed the persons who were its dupes. It was com- 
puted that the total amount of the sums proposed for carrying on 
these projects was upwards of three hundred millions sterling. 

It is time, however, to 
return to the great South- 
Sea gulf, that swallowed 
the fortunes of so many 
thousands of the avaricious 
and the credulous. On the 
29th of May, the stock had 
risen as high as five hun- 
dred, and about two-thirds 
of the government annui- 
tants had exchanged the 
securities of the state for 
those of theSouth-Seacom- 
pany. During the whole of 
the month of May the stock 
continued to rise, and on 
the 28th it was quoted at 
five hundred and fifty. In 
four days after this it took 
a prodigious leap, rising 
suddenly from five hundred 
and fifty to eight hundred 
HiciiHT'i siinii. and ninety. It was now 

the general opinion that 
the stock could rise no higher, and many persons took that opportu- 
nity of selling out, with a view of realising their profits. Many 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 63 

noblemen and persons in the train of the king, and about to accom- 
pany him to Hanover, were also anxious to seU out. So many 
sellers, and so few buyers, appeared in the Alley on the 3d of June, 
that the stock fell at once from eight hundred and ninety to six 
hundred and forty. The directors were alarmed, and gave their 
agents orders to buy. Their efforts succeeded. Towards evening, 
confidence was restored, and the stock advanced to seven hundred 
and fifty. It continued at this price, with some slight fluctuation, 
until the company closed their books on the 22d of June. 

It would be needless aud uninteresting to detail the various arts 
employed by the directors to keep up the price of stock. It will be 
sufficient to state that it finally rose to one thousand per cent. It 
was quoted at this price in the commencement of August. The 
bubble was then full-blown, and began to quiver and shake prepara- 
tory to its bursting. 

Many of the government annuitants expressed dissatisfaction 
against the directors. They accused them of partiality in making 
out the lists for shares in each subscription. Further uneasiness was 
occasioned by its being generally known that Sir John Blunt the 
chairman, and some others, had sold out. During the whole of the 
month of August the stock fell, and on the 2d of September it was 
quoted at seven hundred only. 

The state of things now became alarming. To prevent, if possible, 
the utter extinction of public confidence in their proceedings, the 
directors summoned a general court of the whole corporation, to meet 
in Merchant Tailors' Hall on the 8th of September. By nine o'clock 
in the morning, the room was filled to suffocation ; Cheapside was 
blocked up by a crowd unable to gain admittance, and the greatest 
excitement prevailed. The directors and their friends mustered in 
great nimibers. Sir John Fellowes, the sub-governor, was called to 
the chair. He acquainted the assembly with the cause of their meet- 
ing ; read to them the several resolutions of the court of directors, 
and gave them an account of their proceedings ; of the taking in the 
redeemable and unredeemable funds, and of the subscriptions in 
money. Mr. Secretary Craggs then made a short speech, wherein he 
commended the conduct of the directors, and urged that nothing 
could more effectually contribute to the bringing this scheme to per- 
fection than union among themselves. He concluded with a motion 
for thanking the court of directors for their prudent and skilful man- 
agement, and for desiring them to proceed in such manner as they 
should think most proper for the interest and advantage of the cor- 
poration. Mr. Hungerford, who had rendered himself very conspi- 
cuous in the House of Commons for his zeal in behalf of the South- 



64 ESTBAORSINABT FOFULAit DEL1JSIUN3. 

Sea company, and who was ahrewdlj suspected to have been a consi- 
derable gainer by kuowiug the right time to aell out, waa vezy mag- 
Diloquent on this occasion. He said that he had seen the rise and 
&1I, the decay and resurrection of many commuuitiea of this nature, 
but that, in his opinion, none had ever performed such wonderful 
things in so short a time as the South-8ea company. The; had done 
more than the crown, the pulpit, 
or the bench could do. They had 
reconciled all parties in one com- 
mon interest ; they had laid asleep, 
if not wholly extinguished, all the 
domestic jars and animosities of the 
nation. By the rise of their stock, 
monied men had vastly increased 
their fortunes ; country gentlemen 
had seen the value of their lands 
doubled and trebled in their hands. 
They had at the same time done 
good to the Church, not a few of the 
""" ""*'- reverend clergy having got great 

sums by the project. In short, they had enriched the whole nation, 
and he hoped they had not forgotten themselves. There was some 
hissing at the latter part of this speech, which for the extravagance 
of its eulogy was not far removed from satire ; but the directors and 
their friends, and all the winners in the room, applauded vehemently. 
The Duke of Portland spoke in a similar strain, and expressed his 
great wonder why any body should he dissatisfied ; of course, he was 
a winner by his speculations, and in a condition similar to that of the 
ts,t alderman in Jo€ MUUr'a Jegti, who, whenever he had eaten a good 
dinner, folded his hands upon his paunch, and expressed his doubts 
whether there could be a hungry man in the world. 

Several resolutions were passed at this meeting, but they had no 
effect upon the public. Upon the very same evening the stock fell 
to six hundred and forty, and on the morrow to five hundred and 
forty. Day after day it continued to fall, until it was as low as four 
hundred. In a letter dated September 13th, from Mr. Broderick, M.P., 
to Lord Chancellor Middleton, and published in Coie's WalpoU, the 
former says : ' ' Various are the conjectures why the South-Sea direc- 
tors have suffered the cloud to break go early. I made no doubt but 
they would do so when they found it to their advantage. They have 
stretched credit so far beyond what it would bear, that specie proves 
insufficient to support it. Their most considerable men have drawn 
out, securing themselves by the losses of the deluded, thoughtless 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 65 4 

numbers, whose understandings have been overruled by avarice and 
the hope of making mountains out of mole-hills. Thousands of fami- 
lies will be reduced to beggary. The consternation is inexpressible — 
the rage beyond description, and the case altogether so desperate, that 
I do nof see any plan or scheme so much as thought of for averting 
the blow, so that I cannot pretend to guess what is next to be done." 
Ten days afterwards, the stock still falling, he writes: "The company 
have yet come to no determination, for they are in such a wood that 
they know not which way to turn. By several gentlemen lately come 
to town, I perceive the very name of a South-Sea-man grows abomin- 
able in every country. A great many goldsmiths are already run off, 
and more will daily. I question whether one-third, nay, one-fourth 
of them can stand it. From the very beginning, I founded my judg- 
ment of the whole affair upon the unquestionable maxim, that ten 
millions (which is more than our running cash) could not circulate 
two hundred millions, beyond which our paper credit extended. That, 
therefore, whenever that should become doubtful, be the cause what 
it would, our noble state machine must inevitably fall to the ground." 

On the 12th of September, at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Secre- 
tary Craggs, several conferences were held between the directors of 
the South Sea and the directors of the Bank. A report which was 
circulated, that the latter had agreed to circulate six millions of the 
South-Sea company's bonds, caused the stock to rise to six hundred and 
seventy ; but in the afternoon, as soon as the report was known to be 
groundless, the stock fell again to five hundred and eighty ; the next 
day to five hundred and seventy, and so gradually to four hundred.* 

The ministry were seriously alarmed at the aspect of affairs. The 
directors could not appear in the streets without being insulted; 
dangerous riots were every moment apprehended. Despatches were 
sent off to the king at Hanover, praying his immediate return. Mr. 
Walpole, who was staying at his country seat, was sent for, that he 
might employ his known influence with the directors of the Bank of 
England to induce them to accept the proposal made by the South-Sea 
company for circulating a number of their bonds. 

The Bank was very unwilling to mix itself up with the affairs of 
the company ; it dreaded being involved in calamities which it could 

* Gay (the poet), In thst diaastrous year, had a present from yoimg Craggs of some 
South-Sea stock, and once supposed himself to he master of twenty thousand pounds. 
His friends persuaded him to sell his share, but he dreamed of dignity and splendour, 
and could not hear to obstruct his own fortune. He -was then importuned to sell as much 
as would purchase a hundred a year for life, " which," says Fenton, " will make you sure 
of a clean shirt and a shoulder of mutton every day." This counsel was rejected ; the 
profit and principal were lost, and Gay sunk under tb calamity so low that his life be- 
came in danger.— i7^oAiuoa'« Livea of the PoeU 

5 



66 EXTKAORDINAEY POPULAH DELUSIONS. 

not relieve, and received all overtures with visible reluctance. But 
the universal voice of the nation called upon it to come to the rescue. 
Every person of note in commercial politics was called in to advise 
in the emergency. A rough draft of a contract drawn up by Mr. 
Walpole was ultimately adopted as the basis of further negotiations, 
and the public alarm abated a little. 

On the following day, the 20th of September, a general court of 
the South- Sea company was held at Merchant Tailors' Hall, in which 
resolutions were carried, empowering the directors to agree with the 
Bank of England, or any other persons, to circulate the company's 
bonds, or make any other agreement with the Bank which they should 
think proper. One of the speakers, a Mr. Pulteney, said it was most 
surprising to see the extraordinary panic which had seized upon the 
people. Men were running to and fro in alarm and terror, their ima- 
ginations filled with some great calamity, the form and dimensions of 
which nobody knew : 

" Black it stood as night — 
Fierce as ten furies — terrible as hell.** 

At a general court of the Bank of England held two days after- 
wards, the governor informed them of the several meetings that had 
been held on the affairs of the South-Sea company, adding that the 
directors had not yet thought fit to come to any decision upon the 
matter. A resolution was then proposed, and carried without a dis- 
sentient voice, empowering the directors to agree with those of the 
South Sea to circulate their bonds, to what sum, and upon what 
terms, and for what time, they might think proper. 

Thus both parties were at liberty to act as they might judge best 
for the public interest. Books were opened at the Bank for a sub- 
scription of three millions for the support of public credit, on the 
usual terms of 15^. per cent deposit, 3^. per cent premium, and 51, per 
cent interest. So great was the concourse of people in the early part 
of the morning, all eagerly bringing their money, that it was thought 
the subscription would be filled that day ; but before noon, the tide 
turned. In spite of all that could be done to prevent it, the South- 
Sea company's stock fell rapidly. Their bonds were in such discredit, 
that a run commenced upon the most eminent goldsmiths and bankers, 
some of whom, having lent out great sums upon South-Sea stock, were 
obliged to shut up their shops and abscond. The Sword-blade com- 
pany, who had hitherto been the chief cashiers of the South-Sea com- 
pany, stopped payment. This being looked upon as but the beginning 
of evil, occasioned a great run upon the Bank, who were now obliged to 
pay out money much faster than they had received it upon the sub- 
scription in the morning. The day succeeding was a holiday (the 29th 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 67 

of September), and the Bank had a little breathing time. They bore up 
against the storm ; but their former rivals, the South-Sea company, 
were wrecked upon it. Their stock fell to one hundred and fifty, and 
gradually, after various fluctuations, to one hundred and thirty-five. 

The Bank, finding they were not able to restore public confidence, 
and stem the tide of ruin, without running the risk of being swept 
away with those they intended to save, declined to carry out the 
agreement into which they had partially entered. They were under 
no obligation whatever to continue ; for the so-called Bank contract 
was nothing more than the rough draught of an agreement, in which 
blanks had been left for several important particulars, and which con- 
tained no penalty for their secession. " And thus, " to use the words of 
the Parliamentary History, " were seen, in the space of eight months, 
the rise, progress, and fall of that mighty fabric, which, being wound 
up by mysterious springs to a wonderful height, had fixed the eyes 
and expectations of all Europe, but whose foundation, being fraud, 
illusion, credulity, and infatuation, fell to the ground as soon as the 
artful management of its directors was discovered." 

In the hey-day of its blood, during the progress of this dangerous 
delusion, the manners of the nation became sensibly corrupted. The 
parliamentary inquiry, set on foot to discover the delinquents, dis- 
closed scenes of infamy, disgraceful alike to the morals of the offenders 
and the intellects of the people among whom they had arisen. It is 
a deeply interesting study to investigate all the evils that were the 
result. Nations, like individuals, cannot become desperate gamblers 
with impunity. Punishment is sure to overtake them sooner or later. 
A celebrated Mrriter* is quite wrong when he says, " that such an era 
as this is the most unfavourable for a historian ; that no reader of 
sentiment and imagination can be entertained or interested by a 
detail of transactions such as these, which admit of no warmth, no 
colouring, no embellishment ; a detail of which only serves to exhibit 
an inanimate picture of tasteless vice and mean degeneracy." On the 
contrary, — and Smollett might have discovered it, if he had been in 
the humour, — the subject is capable of inspiring as much interest as 
even a novellist can desire. Is there no warmth in the despair of a 
plundered people? — no life and animation in the picture which might 
be drawn of the woes of hundreds of impoverished and ruined fami- 
lies ? of the wealthy of yesterday become the beggars of to-day I of 
the powerful and influential changed into exiles and outcasts, and the 
voice of self-reproach and imprecation resounding from every comer 
of the land? Is it a dull or iminstructive picture to see a whole 
people shaking suddenly off the trammels of reason, and running 

* Smollett. 



63 EXTR&ORDtNAKT FOrVL&E DELOSIOHS. 

wild after a golden vision, refuting obstinately to believe that it is 
not teal, till, like a deluded hind running after an ignis faima, they 
are plunged into a quagmire ! But in this false spirit has history too 




*Ihjj 6t^ Solomon, e/pj-d, 
^Trmn^ (HiA^T^ctbife rout 
That hepspiididOn7(Qr/ei^ 

Southed, hxii vt}fifij iif Samc^ 
T^rMi^hiy HeN of/crte ^ 
j(rt'bYoi^%to Povtrty ^/hatm. 
Qfhi/C ScouncTTelsTK/e/n/feA 



often been written. The intrigues of unworthy courtiers to gain the 
fiivour of still more unworthy kings, or the records of murderous bat- 
tles and sieges, have been dilated on, and told over and over again, 
with all the eloqueoce of style and all the charms of &ncy ; while the 
mroumstances which have most deeply affected the morals and wel&re 
of the people have been passed over with but slight notice, as dij and 
dull, and capable of neither warmth nor colouring. 

During the progress of this famous bubble, England presented a 
angular spectacle. The public mind was in a state of unwholeBOme 
fermentation. Men were no longer satisfied with the slow but sure 
profits of cautious industry. The hope of boundless wealth for the 

* Cuicsture, copied from fuUieri' MeSty, pxVUsbeA by CurlngUn BohIsb. 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 69 

morrow made them heedless and extravagant for to-day. A luxury, 
till then unheard-of, was introduced, bringing in its train a corres- 
ponding^ laxity of morals. The over-bearing insolence of ignorant 
men, who had arisen to sudden wealth by successful gambling, made 
men of true gentility of mind and manners blush that gold should 
have power to raise the unworthy in the scale of society. The haughti- 
ness of some of these " cyphering cits," as they were termed by Sir 
Richard Steele, was remembered against them in the day of their 
adversity. In the parliamentary inquiry, many of the directors suf- 
fered more for their insolence than for their peculation. One of them, 
who, in the full-blown pride of an ignorant rich man, had said that 
he would feed his horse upon gold, was reduced almost to bread and 
water for himself ; every haughty look, every overbearing speech, was 
set down, and repaid them a hundredfold in poverty and humiliation. 

The state of matters all over the country was so alarming, that 
George I. shortened his intended stay in Hanover, and returned in all 
haste to England. He arrived on the 11th of November, and parlia- 
ment was summoned to meet on the 8th of December. In the mean 
time, public meetings were held in every considerable town of the 
empire, at which petitions were adopted, praying the vengeance of 
the legislature upon the South-Sea directors, who, by their fraudulent 
practices, had brought the nation to the brink of ruin. Nobody 
seemed to imagine that the nation itself was as culpable as the South- 
Sea company. Nobody blamed the credulity and avarice of the people, 
— the degrading lust of gain, which had swallowed up every nobler 
quality in the national character, or the infatuation which had made 
the multitude run their heads with such frantic eagerness into the 
net held out for them by scheming projectors. These things were 
never mentioned. The people were a simple, honest, hard-working 
people, ruined by a gang of robbers, who were to be hanged, drawii, 
and quartered without mercy. 

This was the almost unanimous feeling of the country. The two 
Houses of Parliament were not more reasonable. Before the guilt of 
the 'South-Sea directors was known, punishment was the only cry. 
The king, in his speech from the throne, expressed his hope that they 
would remember that all their prudence, temper, and resolution were 
necessary to find out and apply the proper remedy for their misfor- 
times. In the debate on the answer to the address, several speakers 
indulged in the most violent invectives against the directors of the 
South-Sea project. The Lord Molesworth was particularly vehement. 
" It had been said by some, that there was no law to punish the 
directors of the South-Sea company, who were justly looked upon as 
the authors of the present misfortunes of the state. In his opinion. 



70 EXTRiOEIUNillT FOPDIAK 

they ought upon this occasion to follow the example of the ancient 
Romans, who, having no law agMnst parricide, because their legis- 
lators supposed no sou could be so unnaturally wicked as to etnbrue 
his hands in his Other's blood, made a law to punish this heinous 
mme as soon as it was committed. They adjudged the guiltj wretch 
to be sown in a sack, and thrown alive into the Tiber. He looked 
upon the contrivers and exe- 
cutors of thevillanous South- 
Sea scheme as the parricides 
of their country, and should 
be satisfied to see them tied 
in like manner in sacks, and 
thrown into the Thames." 
Other members spoke with 
as much want of temper and 
discretion. Mr, Walpole was 
more moderate. He recom- 
mended that their first care 
should he to restore public 
credit. " If the city of Ion- 
don were on fire, all wise 
men wouldaid in extinguisb- 
iug the flames, and prevent- 
ing the spread of the confla- 
gration, before they inquired 
after the incendiaries. Public 
credit had received a danger- 
ous wound, and lay bleeding, 
and they ought to apply a 
speedy remedy to it. It was 
iiiTimii tmrr •! 1 ■DDTB-iii BjKCToi.' time cuough to punish the 
assaasin afterwards." On the 
9th of December an address, in answer to his majesty's speech, was 
agreed upon, after an amendment, which was carried without a divi- 
sion, that words should be added expressive of the determination of 
the house not only to seek a remedy for the national distresses, but 
to punish the authors of them. 

The inquiry proceeded rapidly. The directors were ordered to lay 
before the house a fuU account of all their proceedings. Resolutions 
were passed to the effect that the calamity was mainly owing to the 
vile arts of stock-jobbers, and that nothing could tend more to the re- 
establishment of public credit than a law to prevent this infamous 
* BriUmila sDlpt b; a Soutli-Sea OiincVir. From Bel grvalt Ta/eral der Daauhad. 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 71 

practice. Mr. Walpole then rose, and said, that "as he had pre- 
viously hinted, he had spent some time upon a scheme for restoring 
public credit, but that the execution of it depending upon a position 
which had been laid down as fundamental, he thought it proper, be- 
fore he opened out his scheme, to be informed whether he might rely 
upon that foundation. It was, whether the subscription of public 
debts and encumbrances, money subscriptions, and other contracts, 
made with the South-Sea company, should remain in the present 
state ?" This question occasioned an animated debate. It was finally 
agreed, by a majority of 259 against 117, that all these contracts 
should remain in their present state, unless altered for the relief of 
the proprietors by a general court of the South-Sea company, or set 
aside by due course of law. On the following day, Mr. Walpole laid 
before a committee of the whole house his scheme for the restoration 
of public credit, which was, in substance, to engraft nine millions of 
South-Sea stock into the Bank of England, and the same sum into 
the East India company, upon certain conditions. The plan was 
favourably received by the house. After some few objections, it was 
ordered that proposals should be received from the two great corpora- 
tions. They were both unwilling to lend their aid, and the plan 
met with a warm but fruitless opposition at the general courts sum- 
moned for the purpose of deliberating upon it. They, however, ulti- 
mately agreed upon the terms on which they would consent to cir- 
culate the South-Sea bonds, and their report being presented to the 
committee, a bill was brought in under the superintendence of Mr. 
Walpole, and safely carried through both Houses of Parliament. 

A bill was at the same time brought in for restraining the South- 
Sea directors, governor, sub-governor, treasurer, cashier, and clerks 
from leaving the kingdom for a twelvemonth, and for discovering 
their estates and effects, and preventing them from transporting or 
alienating the same. All the most influential members of the House 
supported the bill. Mr. Shippen, seeing Mr. Secretary Craggs in his 
place, and believing the injurious rumours that were afloat of that 
minister's conduct in the South-Sea business, determined to touch 
him to the quick. He said, he was glad to see a British House of 
Commons resuming its pristine vigour and spirit, and acting with so 
much unanimity for the public good. It was necessary to secure the 
persons and estates of the South-Sea directors and their officers; 
" but," he added, looking fixedly at Mr. Craggs as he spoke, " there 
were other men in high station, whom, in time, he would not be 
afraid to name, who were no less guilty than tjie directors." Mr. 
Craggs arose in great wrath, and said, that if the innuendo were 
directed against him, he was ready to give satisfaction to any man 



72 EXTBAOBJ)INABT POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

who questioned him, either in the House or out of it. Loud cries of 
order immediately arose on every side. In the midst of the uproar, 
Lord Molesworth got up, and expressed his wonder at the boldness of 
Mr. Oraggs in challenging the whole House of Commons. He, Lord 
Molesworth, though somewhat old, past sixty, would answer Mr. 
Oraggs whatever he had to say in the House, and he trusted there 
were plenty of young men beside him, who would not be afraid to 
look Mr. Oraggs in the face out of the House. The cries of order 
again resounded from every side ; the members arose simultaneously ; 
every body seemed to be vociferating at once. The speaker in vain 
called order. The confusion lasted several minutes, during which 
Lord Molesworth and Mr. Oraggs were almost the only members who 
kept their seats. At last, the call for Mr. Oraggs became so violent, 
that he thought proper to submit to the universal feeling of the House, 
and explain his unparliamentary expression. He said, that by giving 
satisfaction to the impugners of his conduct in that House, he did 
not mean that he would fight, but that he would explain his conduct. 
Here the matter ended, and the House proceeded to debate in what 
manner they should conduct their inquiry into the affairs of the South- 
Sea company, whether in a grand or a select committee. Ultimately, 
a secret committee of thirteen was appointed, with power to send for 
persons, papers, and records. 

The Lords were as zealous and as hasty as the Oommons. The 
Bishop of Rochester said the scheme had been like a pestilence. The 
DYike of Wharton said the House ought to shew no respect of persons; 
that, for his part, he would give up the dearest friend he had, if he 
had been engaged in the project. The nation had been plundered in 
a most shameful and flagrant manner, and he would go as far as any 
body in the punishment of the offenders. Lord Stanhope said, that 
every farthing possessed by the criminals, whether directors or not 
directors, ought to be confiscated, to make good the public losses. 

During all this time the public excitement was extreme. We 
learn from Ooxe's WcJ/pole, that the very name of a South-Sea director 
was thought to be synonymous with every species of fraud and vil- 
lany. Petitions from counties, cities, and boroughs, in all parts of 
the kingdom, were presented, crying for the justice due to an in- 
jured nation and the punishment of the villanous peculators. Those 
moderate men, who would not go to extreme lengths, even in the 
punishment of the guilty, were accused of being accomplices, were 
exposed to repeated insults and virulent invectives, and devoted, 
both in anonymous letters and public writings, to the speedy ven- 
geance of an injured people. The accusations against Mr. Aislabie, 
Ohancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Oraggs, another member of 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 73 

the ministry, were so loud, that the House of Lords resolved to pro- 
ceed at once into the investigation concerning them. It was ordered, 
on the 21st of January, that all brokers concerned in the South-Sea 
scheme should lay before the House an account of the stock or sub- 
scriptions bought or sold by them for any of the officers of the Trea- 
sury or Exchequer, or in trust for any of them, since Michaelmas 
1719. When this account was delivered, it appeared that large quan- 
tities of stock had been transferred to the use of Mr. Aislabie. Five 
of the South-Sea directors, including Mr. Edward Gibbon, the grand- 
father of the celebrated historian, were ordered into the custody of 
the black rod. Upon a motion made by Earl Stanhope, it was unani- 
mously resolved, that the taking in or giving credit for stock without 
a valuable consideration actually paid or sufficiently secured ; or the 
purchasing stock by any director or agent of the South-Sea company, 
for the use or benefit of any member of the administration, or any 
member of either House of Parliament, during such time as the South- 
Sea bill was yet pending in parliament, was a notorious and danger- 
ous corruption. Another resolution was passed a few days after- 
wards, to the effect that several of the directors and officers of the 
company having, in a clandestine manner, sold their own stock to 
the company, had been guilty of a notorious fraud and bi*each of 
trust, and had thereby mainly caused the unhappy turn of affairs 
that had so much affected public credit. Mr. Aislabie resigned his 
office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and absented himself from 
parliament, until the formal inquiry into his individual guilt was 
brought under the consideration of the legislature. 

In the mean time. Knight, the treasurer of the company, and 
who was entrusted with all the dangerous secrets of the dishonest 
directors, packed up his books and documents, and made his escape 
from the country. He embarked in disguise, in a small boat on the 
river, and proceeding to a vessel hired for the purpose, was safely 
conveyed to Calais. The Committee of Secrecy informed the House 
of the circumstance, when it was resolved unanimously that two 
addresses should be presented to the king ; the first praying that he 
would issue a proclamation offering a reward for the apprehension 
of Knight ; and the second, that he would give immediate orders to 
stop the ports, and to take effectual care of the coasts, to prevent 
the said Knight, or any other officers of the South-Sea company, 
from escaping out of the kingdom. The ink was hardly dry upon 
these addresses before they were carried to the king by Mr. Methuen, 
deputed by the House for that purpose. The same evening a royal 
proclamation was issued, offering a reward of two thousand pounds 
for the apprehension of Knight. The Commons ordered the doors of 



1 



74 EXTBAOBDINARY POPULAR DELUSIONS, 

the House to be locked, and the keys to be placed on the table. Gene- 
ral Ross, one of the members of the Committee of Secrecy, acquainted 
them that they had akeady discovered a train of the deepest villany 
and fraud that hell had ever contrived to ruin a nation, which in due 
time they would lay before the House. In the mean time, in order 
to a further discovery, the Committee thought it highly necessary to 
secure the persons of some of the directors and principal South-Sea 
officers, and to seize their papers. A motion to this effect having 
been made, was carried unanimously. Sir Robert Chaplin, Sir Theo- 
dore Janssen, Mr. Sawbridge, and Mr. F. Eyles, members of the 
House, and directors of the South-Sea company, were summoned to 
appear in their places, and answer for their corrupt practices. Sir 
Theodore Janssen and Mr. Sawbridge answered to their names, and 
endeavoured to exculpate themselves. The House heard them pa- 
tiently, and then ordered them to withdraw. A motion was then 
made, and carried nemine contradicente, that they had been guilty of 
a notorious breach of trust — had occasioned much loss to great num- 
bers of his majesty's subjects, and had highly prejudiced the public 
credit. It was then ordered that, for their offence, they should be 
expelled the House, and taken into the custody of the sergeant-at- 
arms. Sir Robert Chaplin and Mr. Eyles, attending in their places 
four days afterwards, were also expelled the House. It was resolved 
at the same time to address the king to give directions to his minis- 
ters at foreign courts to make application for Knight, that he might 
be delivered up to the English authorities, in case he took refuge in 
any of their dominions. The king at once agreed, and messengers 
were despatched to all parts of the continent the same night. 

Among the directors taken into custody was Sir John Blunt, the 
man whom popular opinion has generally accused of having been the 
original author and father of the scheme. This man, we are in- 
formed by Pope, in his epistle to Allen Lord Bathurst, was a dis- 
senter, of a most religious deportment, and professed to be a great 
believer.* He constantly declaimed against the luxury and corrup- 

* " * God cannot love,' says Blnnt, Vrith tearless eyes, 
' The wretch he starves, and piously denies.' . . . 
Much-injur'd Blunt ! why bears he Britain's hate ? 
A wizard told him in these words our fate : 
* At length corruption, like a gen'ral flood, 
So long by watchful ministers withstood, 
Shall deluge all ; and av'rice, creeping on, 
Spread like a low-bom mist, and blot the sun ; 
Statesman and patriot ply alike the stocks, 
Peeress and butler share alike the box, 
And judges job, and bishops bite the Town, 
And mighty dukes pack cards for half-a-crown : 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 75 

tion of the age, the partiality of parliaments, and the misery of party 
spirit. He was particularly eloquent against avarice in great and 
noble persons. He was originally a scrivener, and afterwards became, 
not only a director, but the most active manager of the South-Sea 
company. Whether it was during his career in this capacity that he 
first began to declaim against the avarice of the great, we are not 
informed. He certainly must have seen enough of it to justify his 
severest anathema; but if the preacher had himself been free from 
the vice he condemned, his declamations would have had a better 
effect. He was brought up in custody to the bar of the House of 
Lords, and underwent a long examination. He refused to answer 
several important questions. He said he had been examined already 
by a committee of the House of Commons, and as he did not remem- 
ber his answers, and might contradict himself, he refused to answer 
before another tribunal. This declaration, in itself an indirect proof 
of guilt, occasioned some commotion in the House. He was again 
asked peremptorily whether he had ever sold any portion of the stock 
to any member of the administration, or any member of either House 
of Parliament, to facilitate the passing of the bill. He again declined 
to answer. He was anxious, he said, to treat the House with all pos- 
sible respect, but he thought it hard to be compelled to accuse himself. 
After several ineffectual attempts to refresh his memory, he was di- 
rected to withdraw. A violent discussion ensued between the friends 
and opponents of the ministry. It was asserted that the administration 
were no strangers to the convenient taciturnity of Sir John Blunt. 
The Duke of Wharton made a reflection upon the Earl Stanhope, which 
the latter warmly resented. He spoke under great excitement, and 
with such vehemence as to cause a sudden determination of blood 
to the head. He felt himself so ill that he was obliged to leave the 
House and retire to his chamber. He was . cupped immediately, and 
also let blood on the following morning, but with slight relief. The 
fatal result was not anticipated. Towards evening he became drowsy, 
and turning himself on his face, expired. The sudden death of this 
statesman caused great grief to the nation. George I. was exceed- 
ingly affected, and shut himself up for some hours in his closet, in- 
consolable for his loss. 

See Britain sunk in Lucre's forbid charms. 

And France reveng'd of Ann's and Edward's arms 1 ' 

'Twas no court-badge, great Scriv'ner! fir'd thy brain, 

Nor lordly luxury, nor city gain : 

No, 'twas thy righteous end, asham'd to see 

Senates degen'rate, patriots disagree, 

And nobly wishing party-rage to cease. 

To buy both sides, and give thy country peace." 

Pop^B Epistle to Allen Lord Bathurst. 



76 XSIBIOESIXAKI 

Knight, the treasurer of the companj, wag apprehended at Tirle- 
mont, near Liege, bj one of the secretaries of Mr. Leathea, the 
British resident at Briusela, and lodged in the citadel of Antwerp. 
Bepeated applications were made to the court of AuBtrisi to deliver 
him up, but in vain. Knight threw hiimelf upon the protection of 
the states of Brabant, and demanded t« be tried in that country. It 
was a privilege granted to the states of Brabant bj one of the articlei 
of the JoyeuK £nirSe, that everj crimiiuil apprehended in that ooua- 



trj should be tried in that country. The states insisted on their pri^ 
vil^e, and refused to deliver Knight to the Britiaii authoritieg. The 
latter did not cease their solicitations ; but in the mean time, Knight 
escaped from the citadel. 

On the 16th of Februarj' the Committee of Secrecj made their 
first report to the House. They stated that their inquiry bad been 
attended with numerous difficulties and embairasements ; every one 
thej had examined had endeavoured, as far as in him lay, to defeat 
the ends of justice. In some of the books produced before them, 
false and fictitious entries had been made ; in others, there were 
entries of money with blanta for the name of the stockholders. 
There were frequent erasures and alterations, and in some of the 
books leaves were torn out. They also found that some books of 
great importance had been destroyed altogether, and that some had 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 77 

been taken away or secreted. At the very entrance into their in- 
quiry, they had observed that the matters referred to them were of 
great variety and extent. Many persons had been entrusted with 
various parts in the execution of the law, and under colour thereof 
had acted in an unwarrantable manner, in disposing of the properties 
of many thousands of persons amounting to many millions of money. 
They discovered that^ before the South-Sea Act was passed, there 
was an entiy in the company's books of the sum of 1,259,325/., 
upon account of stock stated to have been sold to the amount of 
574,500Z. This stock was all fictitious, and had been disposed of 
with a view to promote the passing of the bill. It was noted as 
sold on various days, and at various prices, from 150 to 325 per cent. 
Being surprised to see so large an account disposed of at a time 
when the company were not empowered to increase their capital, 
the Committee determined to investigate most carefully the whole 
transaction. The governor, sub-governor, and several directors were 
brought before them, and examined rigidly. They found that, at 
the time these entries were made, the company was not in pos- 
session of such a quantity of stock, having in their own right only 
a small quantity, not exceeding thirty thousand pounds at the ut- 
most. Pursuing the inquiry, they found that this amount of stock 
was to be esteemed as taken in or holden by the company for the 
benefit of the pretended purchasers, although no mutual agreement 
was made for its deliv^y or acceptance at any certain time. No 
money was paid down, nor any deposit or security whatever given 
to the company by the supposed purchasers ; so that if the stock had 
fallen, as might have been expected had the act not passed, they 
would have sustained no loss. If, on the contrary, the price of stock 
advanced (as it actually did by the success of the scheme), the dif- 
ference by the advanced price was to be made good to them. Ac- 
cordingly, after the passing of the act, the account of stock was made 
up and adjusted with Mr. Knight, and the pretended purchasers were 
paid the di£ference out of the company's cash. This fictitious stock, 
which had been chiefly at the disposal of Sir John Blunt, Mr. Gib- 
bon, and Mr. Knight, was distributed among several members of the 
government and their connexions, by way of bribe, to facilitate the 
passing of the bill. To the Earl of Sunderland was assigned 50,000/. 
of this stock ; to the Duchess of Kendal, 10,000/. ; to the Countess of 
Platen, 10,000/. ; to her two nieces, 10,000/. ; to Mr. Secretary Craggs, 
30,000/. ; to Mr. Charles Stanhope (one of the secretaries of the 
Treasury), 10,000/. ; to the Sword-blade company, 50,000/. It also 
appeared that Mr. Stanhope had received the enormous sum of 
250,000/. as the difference in the price of some stock, through the 



^ 



78 EXTBAOBDINAJIY FOFULAJl DELUSIONS. 

hands of Turner, Oaswall, and Co., but that his name had been partly 
erased from their books, and altered to Stangape. Aislabie, the Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer, had made profits still more abominable. He 
had an account with the same firm, who were also South-Sea direc- 
tors, to the amount of 794,451^. He had, besides, advised the com- 
pany to make their second subscription one million and a half, in- 
stead of a million, by their own authority, and without any warrant. 
The third subscription had been conducted in a manner as disgrace- 
ful. Mr. Aislabie's name was down for 70,000^. ; Mr. Craggs, senior, 
for 659,000^. ; the Eai-1 of Sunderland's for 160,000^. ; and Mr. Stan- 
hope for 47,000^. This report was succeeded by six others, less im- 
portant. At the end of the last, the committee declared, that the 
absence of Knight, who had been principally entrusted, prevented 
them from carrying on their inquiries. 

The first report was ordered to be printed, and taken into con- 
sideration on the next day but one succeeding. After a very angry 
and animated debate, a series of resolutions were agreed to, condem- 
natory of the conduct of the directors, of the members of the parlia- 
ment and of the administration concerned with them ; and declaring 
that they ought, each and all, to make satisfaction out of their own 
estates for the injury they had done the public. Their practices were 
declared to be corrupt, infamous, and dangerous ; and a bill was 
ordered to be brought in for the relief of the unhappy sufferers. 

Mr. Charles Stanhope was the first person brought to account for 
his share in these transactions. He urged in his defence that, for 
some years past, he had lodged all the money he was possessed of in 
Mr. Knight's hands, and whatever stock Mr. Knight had taken in for 
him, he had paid a valuable consideration for it. As for the stock 
that had been bought for him by Turner, Caswall, and Co., he knew 
nothing about it. Whatever had been done in that matter was done 
without his authority, and he could not be responsible for it. Turner 
and Co. took the latter charge upon themselves ; but it was notorious 
to every unbiassed and unprejudiced person that Mr. Stanhope was a 
gainer of the 250,000^. which lay in the hands of that firm to his credit. 
He was, however, acquitted by a majority of three only. The greatest 
exertions were made to screen him. Lord Stanhope, the son of the 
Earl of Chesterfield, went round to the wavering members, using all 
the eloquence he was possessed of to induce them either to vote for 
the acquittal, or to absent themselves from the House. Many weak- 
headed country gentlemen were led astray by his persuasions, and 
the result was as already stated. The acquittal caused the greatest 
discontent throughout the country. Mobs of a menacing character 
assembled in different parts of London ; fears of riots were generally 



THE S0CTK-5E4 BCBBLB, 79 

entertained, especially aa the examination of a still greater delinquent 
was espected hj man; to have a similar termination. Mr. Ai&labie, 
nboae high office and deepreBponsibilities ehouldhave kept him honest, 
even had native principle been insufficient, was very justlj regarded 
as perhaps the greatest criminal of all. His case was entered into on 
the day succeeding the acquittal of Mr. Stanhope. Qreat excitement 
prevailed, and the lobbies and avenues of the House were beset by 
crowds, impatient to know the result. The debate lasted the whole 
day. Mr. Aislabie found few friends : his guilt was ao apparent and 
so heinous that nobody had courage to stand up in bis favour. It 



was finally resolved, without a dissentient voice, that Mr. Aislabie 
had encouraged and promoted the destructive execution of the South- 
Sea scheme with a view to his own exorbitant profit, and had com- 
bined with the directors in their pernicious practices, to the ruin of 
the public trade and credit of the kingdom : that he should for his 
offences be ignominiously expelled from the House of Commons, and 
committed a close prisoner to the Tower of London ; that he should 
be restrained from going out of the kingdom for a whole year, or till 
the end of the next session of Parliament : and that he should make 



80 SXTEiOEDINAKY POTOLiB DBLrsIOHS. 

out a correct account of all his estate, in order that it might be ap- 
plied to the relief of those who had suffered bj his mal -practices. 

This verdict caused the greatest joy. Though it was delivered at 
half-past twelve at night, it soon spread over the city. Several per- 
Bone illuminated their Loubcb in token of their joy. On the follow- 
ing day, when Mr. Aislabie was conveyed to the Tower, the mob 
assembled on Tower-hill with the intention of hooting and pelting 
him. Not succeeding in this, they kindled a large bonfire, and danced 
around it in the esuberance of their delight. Several bonfires were 
made in other places ; Loudon presented the appearance of a holiday, 
and people congratulated one another as if they had just escaped from 
some great calajnity. The rage upon the acquittal of Mr. Stanhope 
had grown to such a height that none could tell where it would have 
ended, had Mr. Aislabie met with the like indulgence. 

To increase the public satisfaction, Sir George Caswall, of the firm 
of Turner, Caswall, and Co., was expelled from the House on the fol- 
lowing day, committed to the Tower, and ordered to refund the earn of 
250,OOM. 

That part of the report of the Committee of Secrecy which re- 
lated to the Earl of SunderlMid was next taken into consideration. 
Every effort was made to clear his lordship from the imputation. 
As the caee against him rested 
chiefly on the evidence extorted 
from Sir John Blunt, great pains 
were taken to make it appear that 
Sir John's word was not to be be- 
lieved, especially in a matter affect- 
ing the honour of a peer and privy 
councillor. All the friends of tiie 
ministry rallied around the earl, it 
being generally reported that a ver- 
dict of guilty against him would 
bring a Tory ministry into power. 
He was eventually acquitted by a 
majority of 233 against 172 ; but 
the countiy was convinced of his 
■uL aw .p.m.umi. guilt. The greatest indignation was 

every where expressed, and menacing mobs again assembled in Lon- 
don. Happily no disturbance took place. 

This was the day on which Mr. Craggs the elder expired. The 
morrow had been appointed for the consideration of his case. It was 
very generally believed that be bad poisoned himself. It appeared, 
however, that grief for the loss of his son, one of the secretariea of 



THE SOUTH-SEA BX7BBLE. 81 

the Trea43U]7, who had died five weeks previously of the small-pox, 
preyed much on his mind. For this son, dearly beloved, he had 
been amassing vast heaps of riches : he had been getting money, but 
not honestly ; and he for whose sake he had bartered his honour 
and sullied his fame was now no more. The dread of further ex- 
posure increased his trouble of mind, and ultimately brought on an 
apoplectic fit, in which he expired. He left a fortune of a miUion and 
a half, which was afterwards confiscated for the benefit of the suf- 
ferers by the unhappy delusion he had been so mainly instrumental 
in raising. 

One by one the case of every director of the company was taken 
into consideration. A sum amounting to two millions and fourteen 
thousand pounds was confiscated from their estates towards repairing 
the mischief they had done, each man being allowed a certain residue 
in proportion to his conduct and circumstances, with which he might 
begin the world anew. Sir John Blunt was only allowed 5,000^. out 
of his fortune of upwards of 183,000^. ; Sir John Fellows was allowed 
10,000?. out of 243,000?. ; Sir Theodore Janssen, 50,000?. out of 
243,000?. ; Mr. Edward Gibbon, 10,000?. out of 106,000?. ; Sir John 
Lambert, 5000?. out of 72,000?. Others, less deeply involved, were 
treated with greater liberality. Gibbon, the historian, whose grand- 
father was the Mr. Edward Gibbon so severely mulcted, has given, in 
the Memoirs of his Life and WritingSy an interesting account of the 
proceedings in parliament at this time. He owns that he is not an 
unprejudiced witness ; but, as all the writers from which it is possible 
to extract any notice of the proceedings of these disastrous years were 
prejudiced on the other side, the statements of the great historian be- 
come of additional value. If only on the principle oiavdi (dterampar- 
tem, his opinion is entitled to consideration. ** In the year 1716,** he 
says, " my grandfather was elected one of the directors of the South- 
Sea company, and his books exhibited the proof that before his ac- 
ceptance of that fatal office, he had acquired an independent fortune 
of 60,000?. But his fortune was overwhelmed in the shipwreck of 
the year 1720, and the labours of thirty years were blasted in a 
single day. Of the use or abuse of the South-Sea scheme, of the 
guilt or innocence of my grandfather and his brother directors, I am 
neither a competent nor a disinterested judge. Yet the equity of. 
modem times must condemn the violent and arbitrary proceedings, 
which would have disgraced the cause of justice, and rendered injus- 
tice still more odious. No sooner had the nation awakened from its 
golden dream, than a popular and even a parliamentary clamour 
demanded its victims; but it was acknowledged on all sides, that, 
the directors, however guilty, could not be touched by any known, 

6 



82 EXTKAOKDINAJtT FOPTLAB DELITfilONS. 

laws of the land. The iatemperate notions of Lord Molesnorth were 
not literallj act«d on ; but a bill of painB and penalties was intro- 
duced— a retro-aotive statute, to punish the offenoes which did not 
exist at the time they were committed. Thi; legislature restrained 
the persona of the directors, imposed an exorbitant securitj for 
their appearance, and marked their character with a previous note of 
ignominy. They were compelled to deliver, upon oath, the strict 
value of their estates, and were disabled from making any transfer or 
alienation of any part of their property. Against a bill of pains and 
penalties, it ia the common right of every subject to be heard by his 
counsel at the bar. They prayed to be heard. Their prayer was re- 
fused, and their oppressors, who required no evidence, would listen 
to no defence. It had been at first proposed, that one-eighth of 



their respective estates should be allowed for the future support of 
the directors ; but it was especially urged that, in the various shades 
of opulence and guilt, such a proportion would be too light for many, 
and for some might possibly be too heavy. The character and con- 
duct of each man were separately wdghed ; but, instead of the calm 
solemnity of a judicial inquiry, the fortune and honour of thirty- 
three Englishmen were made the topics of hasty conversation, the 
sport of a lawless majority ; and the basest member of the com- 

■ EmbleiiuUcpiliitorihcewuli-SuBohsme. Br W. Hsguth. 



THE SOUTH-SEA BUBBLE. 83 

mittee, by a malicious word or a silent vote^ might indulge his ge- 
neral spleen or personal animosity. Injury was aggravated by insult, 
and insult was embittered by pleasantry. Allowances of 201, or Is, 
were facetiously moved. A vague report that a director had formerly 
been concerned in another project, by which some unknown persons 
had lost their money, was admitted as a proof of his actual guilt. 
One man was ruined because he had dropped a foolish speech, that 
his horses should feed upon gold ; another, because he was grown so 
proud, that one day, at the Treasury, he had refused a dvil answer to 
persons much above him. All were condemned, absent and unheard, 
in arbitrary fines and forfeitures, which swept away the greatest part 
of their substance. Such bold oppression can scarcely be shielded 
by the omnipotence of parliament. My grandfather could not ex- 
pect to be treated with more lenity than his companions. His Tory 
principles and connexions rendered him obnoxious to the ruling 
powers. His name was reported in a suspicious secret. His well- 
known abilities could not plead the excuse of ignorance or error. In 
the first proceedings against the South-Sea directors, Mr. Gibbon was 
one of the first taken into custody, and in the final sentence the 
measure of his fine proclaimed him eminently guilty. The total 
estimate, which he delivered on oath to the House of Commons, 
amounted to 106,543^. 58, 6d., exclusive of antecedent settlements. 
Two different allowances of 15,000^. and of 10,000^. were moved for 
Mr. Gibbon ; but on the question being put, it was carried without 
a division for the smaller sum. On these ruins, with the skill and 
credit of which parliament had not been able to despoil him, my 
grandfather, at a mature age, erected the edifice of a new fortune. 
The labours of sixteen years were amply rewarded; and I have reason 
to believe that the second structure was not much inferior to the 
first." 

The next consideration of the legislature, after the punishment of 
the directors, was to restore public credit. The scheme of Walpole 
had been found insufficient, and had fallen into disrepute. A com- 
putation was made of the whole capital stock of the South-Sea com- 
pany at the end of the year 1720. It was found to amount to thirty- 
seven millions eight hundred thousand pounds, of which the stock al- 
lotted to all the proprietors only amounted to twenty-four millions five 
hundred thousand pounds. The remainder of thirteen millions three 
hundred thousand pounds belonged to the company in their corpo- 
rate capacity, and was the profit they had made by the national de- 
lusion. Upwards of eight millions of this were taken from the com- 
pany, and divided among the proprietors and subscribers generally, 
making a dividend of about 33^. 6«. 8d, per cent. This was a great 



°4 BSTtUOKDISABT FOFUUB. DZLUSIOIIS. 

relief. It was further ordered, that sach penotu u had borrowed 

money from the South-Sea companj upon stock actually tmnrferred 
and pledged at the time of horrowing to or for the uee of the com- 
pany, should be free from all demands, upon, payment of ten per cent 
of the Bums so borrowed. They had lent about eleven millions in this 
manner, at a time when prices were unnaturally raised ; and they 
now received back one million one hundred thousand, when prices 
had sunk to their ordinary level. 

But it was a long time before public credit was thoroughly re- 
stored, Bnterpriae, like Icarus, had soared too high, and melted the 
wax of her wings ; like Icarua, she had failea into a sea, and learned, 
while floundering in its waves, that her proper element was the solid 
ground. She has never since attempted so high a flight. 

In times of great commercial prosperity there has been a tendency 
to over-speculation on several occasions since then. The success of 
one project generally produces others of a similar kind. Popular 
imitativeness will always, in a trading nation, seize hold of such suc- 
cesses, and drag a community too anxious for profits into an abyss 
from which extrication is difficult. Bubble companies, of a kind 
similar to those engendered by the South-Sea project, lived their little 
day in the famous year of the panic, 1826. On that occasion, as in 
1720, knavery gathered a rich harvest from cupidity, but both suf- 
fered when the day of reckoning came. The schemes of the year 1836 
threatened, at one time, results as disastrous ; but they were happily 
averted before it was too late.* 



• The Bonth-Bea project rtrailned until 18(5 lbs gtetMt erampta In BriUth Mitorj 
of lliB inf»tu»tLDn of the people fcir oommerclKl gMabllng. Tlie flnt edlUra of th»e 
voluni8< wM pnblishad tome time befcrs the oulbreak of Uie Grmt E^irt]' Jtmnim. of 
lint uid Uw folloirliig Tou. 



THE TULIPOMANIA. 



Thb tulip, — BO named, it is sidd, from a Turkieh word, signi^ng a 
turban, — was introduced into western Europe about the middle of the 
sixteenth centur;. Conrad Oesner, who claims the merit of having 
brought it into repute, — little dreaming of the commotion it was 
shortlj afterwards to make in the woiid, — sajs that he first saw it 
in the year 1S59, in a garden at Augsbu^, belonging to the learned 
Counsellor Herwart, a man very famous in his da; for his collection 
of rare exotica. The bulbs were sent to this gentleman bj a friend 
at Constantinople, where the Bower had long been a fevonrite. In 
the course of ten or eleven years after this period, tulips were much 
soii^ht after by the wealthy, especially in Holland and Germany. 
Rich people at Amsterdam sent for the bulbs direct to Constantinople, 
and paid the most extravagant prices for them. The first roots 
planted in England were brought from Vienna in 1600. Fntil the 
year 1634 the tulip annually increased in reputation, until it was 
' deemed a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be without a 



86 EXTBAOBa)IiriL]lT POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

coUection of them. Many learned men, including Pompeius de 
Angelis and the celebrated Lipsius of Lejden, the author of the 
treatise '^ De Constaniia," were passionately fond of tulips. The 
rage for possessing them soon caught the middle classes of society, 
and merchants and shopkeepers, even of moderate means, began to 
vie with each other in the rarity of these flowers and the preposterous 
prices they paid for them. A trader at Harlaem was known to pay 
one-half of his fortune for a single root, not with the design of 
selling it again at a profit, but to keep in his own conservatory for 
the admiration of his acquaintance. 

One would suppose that there must have been some great virtue 
in this flower to have made it so valuable in the eyes of so prudent a 
people as the Dutch ; but it has neither the beauty nor the perfume 
of the rose — hardly the beauty of the " sweet, sweet-pea ;'* neither 
is it as enduring as either. Cowley, it is true, is loud in its praise. 
He says — 

'' The tuHp next appeared^ all over gay. 
But wanton, full of pride, and full of play ; 
The world can't shew a dye but here has place ; 
Nay, by new mixtures, she can change her fsice ; 
Purple and gold are both beneath her care. 
The richest needlework she loves to wear ; 
Her only study is to please the eye. 
And to outshine the rest in finery." 

This, though not very poetical, is the description of a poet. Beck- 
mann, in his History of InverUiona^ paints it with more fidelity, and 
in prose more pleasing than Cowley's poetry. He says, " There are 
few plants which acquire, through accident, weakness, or disease, 
so many variegations as the tulip. When uncultivated, and in its 
natural state, it is almost of one colour, has large leaves, and an 
extraordinarily long stem. When it has been weakened by cultivation, 
it becomes more agreeable in the eyes of the florist. The petals are 
then paler, smaller, and more diversified in hue ; and the leaves 
acquire a softer green colour. Thus this masterpiece of culture, the 
more beautiful it turns, grows so much the weaker, so that, with the 
greatest skill and most careful attention, it can scarcely be trans- 
planted, or even kept alive." 

Many persons grow insensibly attached to that which gives them 
a great deal of trouble, as a mother often loves her sick and ever- 
ailing child better than her more healthy offspring. Upon the same 
principle we must account for the unmerited encomia lavished upon 
these fragile blossoms. In 1634, the rage among the Dutch to possess 
them was so great that the ordinary industry of the countiy was 




THZ TTTUFOlLUnA. 87 

neglected, and the population, even to its lowest dregs, embarked in 
the tulip trade. As the mania increased, prices augmented, until, 
in the year 1635, many persons were known to invest a fortune of 
100,000 florins in the purchase of forty roots. It then became ne- 
cessary to sell them by their weight in perits^ a small weight less than 
a grain. A tulip of the species called Admiral Lufken, weighing 400 
perits, was worth 4400 florins ; an Admiral Van der Eych^ weighing 
446 pmto, was worth 1260 florins ; a Childer of 106 periU was worth 
1615 florins ; a Viceroy of 400 perits, 3000 florins, and, most precious 
of all, a Semper Augustus^ weighing 200 perits^ was thought to be 
veiy cheap at 5500 florins. The latter was much sought after, and 
even an inferior bulb might command a price of 2000 florins. It is 
related that, at one time, early in 1636, there were only two roots of 
this description to be had in all Holland, and those not of the best. 
One was in the possession of a dealer in Amsterdam, and the other in 
Harlaem. So anxious were the speculators to obtain them, that one 
person offered the fee-simple of twelve acres of building-ground for the 
Harlaem tulip. That of Amsterdam was bought for 4600 florins, a 
new carriage, two grey horses, and a complete suit of harness. Mun- 
ting, an industrious author of that day, who wrote a folio volume 
of one thousand pages upon the tuUpomania, has preserved the fol- 
lowing list of the various articles, and their value, which were delivered 
for one single root of the rare species called the Viceroy : 

florins. 

Two lasts of wheat 448 

Four lasts of rye 558 

Four fet oxen 480 

Eight fat swine 240 

Twelve fat sheep 120 

Two hogsheads of wine 70 

Four tuns of beer 32 

Two tuns of butter 192 

One thousand lbs. of cheese 120 

A complete bed 100 

A suit of clothes 80 

A silver drinking-cup 60 

2600 

People who had been absent from Holland, and whose chance it 
was to return when this folly was at its maximum, were sometimes 
led into awkward dilemmas by their ignorance. There is an amusing 
instance of the kind related in Blainville's Travde. A wealthy mer- 
chant, who prided himself not a little on his rare tulips, received 
upon one occasion a very valuable consignment of merchandise from 
the Levant. Intelligence of its arrival was brought him by a sailor, 
who presented himself for that purpose at the counting-house, among 



88 EXTBAOBDINABT F0FT7LAB. DELUSIONS. 

bales of goods of every description. The merchant, to reward him 
for his news, munificently made him a present of a fine red herring 
for his breakfast. The sailor had, it appears, a great partiality for 
onions, and seeing a bulb very like an onion lying upon the counter 
of this liberal trader, and thinking it, no doubt, very much out of 
its place among silks and velvets, he slily seized an opportunity and 
slipped it into his pocket, as a relish for his herring. He got clear 
off with his prize, and proceeded to the quay to eat his breakfast. 
Hardly was his back turned when the merchant missed his valuable 
Semper Av>gu8tU8, worth three thousand florins, or about 280^. sterling. 
The whole establishment was instantly in an uproar ; search was 
every where made for the precious root, but it was not to be found. 
Great was the merchant's distress of mind. The search was renewed, 
but again without success. At last some one thought of the sailor. 

The unhappy merchant sprang into the street at the bare sug- 
gestion. His alarmed household followed him. The sailor, simple 
soul ! had not thought of concealment. He was found quietly sitting 
on a coil of ropes, masticating the last morsel of his " onion" Little 
did he dream that he had been eating a breakfast whose cost might 
have regaled a whole ship's crew for a twelvemonth; or, as the 
plundered merchant himself expressed it, "might have sumptuously 
feasted the Prince of Orange and the whole court of the Stadtholder." 
Anthony caused pearls to be dissolved in wine to drink the health of 
Cleopatra ; Sir Richard Whittington was as foolishly magnificent in 
an entertainment to King Henry Y . ; and Sir Thomas Gresham drank 
a diamond dissolved in wine to the health of Queen Elizabeth, when 
she opened the Royal Exchange ; but the breakfast of this roguish 
Dutchman was as splendid as either. He had an advantage, too, 
over his wasteful predecessors : their gems did not improve the taste 
or the wholesomeness oi their wine, while his tulip was quite delicious 
with his red herring. The most unfortunate part of the business for 
him was, that he remained in prison for some months on a charge of 
felony preferred against him by the merchant. 

Another story is told of an English traveller, which is scarcely 
less ludicrous. This gentleman, an amateur botanist, happened to 
see a tulip-root lying in the conservatory of a wealthy Dutchman. 
Being ignorant of its quality, he took out his penknife, and peeled 
oflf its coats, with the view of making experiments upon it. When it 
was by this means reduced to half its size, he cut it into two equal 
sections, making all the time many learned remarks on the singular 
appearances of the unknown bulb. Suddenly, the owner pounced 
upon him, and, with fury in his eyes, asked him if he knew what he 
had been doing ? " Peeling a most extraordinary onion," replied the 



THE TULIPOMANIA. 89 

philosopher. ^^Bundert tavMnd duyvd /" said the Duchman ; " it 's 
an Admiral Van der EyckP ** Thank you/' replied the traveller, 
taking out his note-book to make a memorandum of the same ; ^' are 
these admirals common in your country ?" " D^th and the devil V 
said the Dutchman, seizing the astonished man of science by the col- 
lar; "come before the syndic, and you shall see." In spite of his 
remonstrances, the traveller was led through the streets followed by 
a mob of persons. When brought into the presence of the magis- 
trate, he learned, to his consternation, that the root upon which he 
had been experimentalising was worth four thousand florins ; and, 
notwithstanding all he could urge in extenuation, he was lodged in 
prison until he found securities for the payment of this sum. 

The demand for tulips of a rare species increased so much in the 
year 1636, that regular marts for their sale were established on the 
Stock Exchange of Amsterdam, in Rotterdam, Harlaem, Leyden, 
Alkmar, Hoom, and other towns. Symptoms of gambling now be- 
came, for the first time, apparent. The stock-jobbers, ever on the 
alert for a new speculation, dealt largely in tulips, making use of all 
the means they so well knew how to employ, to cause fluctuations in 
prices. At first, as in all these gambling mania, confidence was at 
its height, and every body gained. The tulip-jobbers speculated in 
the rise and fall of the tulip stocks, and made large profits by buy- 
ing when prices fell, and selling out when they rose. Many indi- 
viduals grew suddenly rich. A golden bait hung temptingly out be- 
fore the people, and one after the other, they rushed to the tulip- 
marts, like flies around a honey-pot. Every one imagined that the 
passion for tulips would last for ever, and that the wealthy from every 
part of the world would send to Holland, and pay whatever prices 
were asked for them. The riches of Europe would be concentrated 
on the shores of the Zuyder Zee, and poverty banished ifrom the fa- 
voured clime of Holland. Nobles, citizens, farmers, mechanics, sea- 
men, footmen, maid-servants, even chimney-sweeps and old clothes- 
women, dabbled in tulips. People of all grades converted their pro- 
perty into cash, and invested it in flowers. Houses and lands were 
offered for sale at ruinously low prices, or assigned in payment of 
bargains made at the tulip-mart. Foreigners became smitten with the 
same frenzy, and money poured into Holland from all directions. 
The prices of the necessaries of life rose again by degrees : houses 
and lands, horses and carriages, and luxuries of every sort, rose in 
value with them, and for some months Holland seemed the very ante- 
chamber of Plutus. The operations of the trade became so extensive 
and so intricate, that it was found necessary to draw up a code of 
laws for the guidance of the dealers. Notaries and clerks were also 



90 BXTEAORDINABT POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

appointed, who devoted themselves exclusively to the interests of 
the trade. The designation of public notary was hardly known in 
some towns, that of tulip-notary usurping its place. In the smaller 
towns, where there was no exchange, the principal tavern was usually 
selected as the " show-place," where high and low traded in tulips, 
and confirmed their bargains over sumptuous entertainments. These 
dinners were sometimes attended by two or three hundred persons, 
and large vases of tulips, in full bloom, were placed at regular inter- 
vals upon the tables and sideboards for their gratification during 
the repast. 

At last, however, the more prudent began to see that this folly 
could not last for ever. Rich people no longer bought the flowers 
to keep them in their gardens, but to sell them again at cent per 
cent profit. It was seen that somebody must lose fearfully in the 
end. As this conviction spread, prices fell, and never rose again. 
Confidence was destroyed, and a universal panic seized upon the 
dealers. A had agreed to purchase ten Semper AtbgvMines from B^ 
at four thousand florins each, at six weeks after the signing of the 
contract. B was ready with the flowers at the appointed time; but 
the price had fallen to three or four hundred florins, and A refused 
either to pay the difference or receive the tulips. Defaulters were 
announced day after day in all the towns of Holland. Hundreds 
who, a few months previously, had begun to doubt that there was 
such a thing as poverty in the land, suddenly found themselves the 
possessors of a few bulbs, which nobody would buy, even though 
they offered them at one quarter of the sums they had paid for them. 
The cry of distress resounded every where, and each man accused his 
neighbour. The few who had contrived to enrich themselves hid 
their wealth from the knowledge of their fellow-citizens, and in- 
vested it in the English or other funds. Many who, for a brief sea- 
son, had emerged from the humbler walks of life, were cast back 
into their original obscurity. Substantial merchants were reduced 
almost to beggary, and many a representative of a noble line saw the 
fortunes of his house ruined beyond redemption. 

When the first alarm subsided, the tulip-holders in the several 
towns held public meetings to devise what measures, were best to be 
taken to restore public credit. It was generally agreed, that depu- 
ties should be sent from all parts to Amsterdam, to consult with the 
government upon some remedy for the evil. The government at first 
refused to interfere, but advised the tulip-holders to agree to some 
plan among themselves. Several meetings were held for this purpose ; 
but no measure could be devised likely to give satisfaction to the de- 
luded people, or repair even a slight portion of the mischief that had 



THE TULIPOMAIIIA* 91 

been done. The language of complaint and reproach was in every 
body's mouth, and all the meetings were of the most stormy charac- 
ter. At last, however, after much bickering and ill-will, it was agreed, 
at Amsterdam, by the assembled deputies, that all contracts made in 
the height of the mania, or prior to the month of November 1636, 
should be declared null and void, and that, in those made after that 
date, purchasers should be freed from their engagements, on paying 

I ten per cent to the vendor. This decision gave no satisfsiction. The 

vendors who had their tulips on hand were, of course, discontented, 
and those who had pledged themselves to purchase, thought them- 
selves hardly treated. Tulips which had, at one time, been worth six 

j thousand florins, were now to be procured for five hundred ; so that 

i the composition of ten per cent was one hundred florins more than 

the actual value. Actions for breach of contract were threatened in 
all the courts of the country ; but the latter refused to take cogni- 
sance of gambling transactions. 

The matter was finally referred to the Provincial Council at the 
Hague, and it was confidently expected that the wisdom of this body 
would invent some measure by which credit should be restored. Ex- 
pectation was on the stretch /or its decision, but it never came. The 
members continued to deliberate week after week, and at last, after 
thinking about it for three months, declared that they could offe]; no 
final decision until they had more information. They advised, how- 
ever, that, in the mean time, every vendor should, in the presence of 

I witnesses, offer the tulips in natura to the purchaser for the sums 

agreed upon. If the latter refused to take them, they might be put 
up for sale by public auction, and the original contractor held respon- 
sible for the difference between the actual and the stipulated price. 
This was exactly the plan recommended by the deputies, and which 
was already shewn to be of no avail. There was no court in Holland 
which would enforce payment. The question was raised in Amster- 
dam, but the judges unanimously refused to interfere, on the ground 
that debts contracted in gambling were no debts in law. 

Thus the matter rested. To find a remedy was beyond the power 
of the government. Those who were unlucky enough to have had 
stores of tulips on hand at the time of the sudden reaction were left 
to bear their ruin as philosophically as they could ; those who had 
made profits were allowed to keep them ; but the commerce of the 
country suffered a severe shock, from which it was many years ere it 
recovered. 

The example of the Dutch was imitated to some extent in Eng- 
land. In the year 1636 tulips were publicly sold in the Exchange of 
London, and the jobbers exerted themselves to the utmost to raise 



92 EXTBJlOXDINAST FOFULAH DELDHIOSa. 

them to the fiotUious Talue they had acquired in Amsterdam. In 
Paris also the jobbers stroye to craste a tulipomania. In both dtiM 
thef only partially succeeded. However, the force of example brooght 
the flowen into great &vour, and amongst a certain class of people 
tulips have ever since been prized more highly than any other flowers 
of the field. The Dutch are still notorious for their partiality to them, 
and continue to pay higher prices for them than any other people. 
As the rich Englishman boasts of his fine race-horses or his old pic- 
tures, so does the wealthy Dutchman vaunt Tiim of his tulips. 

In England, in our day, strange as it may appear, a tulip will pro- 
duce more money than an oak. If one could be found, rara in terris, 
and black as the black swan of Juvenal, its price would equal that of 
a dozen acres of standing com. In Scotland, towards the close of the 
seventeenth century, the highest price for tulips, according to the au- 
thority of a writer in the supplement to the third edition of the £ncy- 
doptdia Britannica, was t^ guineas. Their value appears to have 
diminished from that time till the year 1769, when the two most 
valuable species in England were the Don Qaevtdo and the V(detUi- 
nier, the former of which waa worth two guineas and the latter two 
guineas and a half. These prices appenr to have been the minimum. 
In the year 1800, a common price was fifteen guineas for a single bulb, 
la 1833, a bulb of the species called the Miss Fanny Kemble was sold 
by public auction in London for seventy-five pounds. Still more re- 
markable was the price of a tulip in the possession of a gardener in 
the King's Road, Chelsea ; — in his catalogues it was labelled at two 
hundred guineas, 



THE ALCHYMISTS; 
SstiU^tn tax tit ^WiOfitx'a itont anlr t&e aSI'tn at lift. 



Jrcrcury (Jtiqvilar). Tbe mlsehler > secret iny of them tnoir, ibova Uia cort- 
Elng of dchIb ind d«wlBg ef niquetaugh I howsoerer they nuf pretsnd, 
der tlie ipecloiu nunesotGabec, Arnold, l-ulll, or boiDtast of HohenhBlm, to 
:le> to art, iDil tresEUD ag^DBt Daturel Asifthe tlUe of phllHO- 
attan at glory, WEfe to tw fetched out «f a fUnuce I I sm their 
Ir Hhliioite, their preclpllnte snii their UDCtJons ; Ibalr mule kud 
(ometlineH Iheir heimsphBidltB— whst Ihej list to ilyle me t They 



DuaATiBrAOTiaN with his lot BeemB to be the characteristic of niEui in 
all ages and climates. So &r, however, from being an evil, as at 
first might be gupposed, tt has been the great civiliser of our race ; 
and has tended, more than anj thing else, to raise ua above the con- 
dition of the brutee. But the same discontent which has been the 
source of all improvement, has been the parent of no small ftogeny 
of follies and absurdltieB ; to trace these latter is our present object. 



It 



16 



EXTB.A.OBDINATIT TOPULAB DELUSIONS. 



he water, and made the children of Israel drink of it." This, say 
he alchjrmists, he never could have done had he not been in posses- 
ion of the philosopher's stone ; by no other means could he have 
aade the powder of gold float upon the water. But we must leave 
his knotty point for the consideration of the adepts in the art, if 
ny such there be, and come to more modem periods of its history. 
?he Jesuit, Father Martini, in his Historia Sinica^ says, it was prac- 
ised by the Chinese two thousand five hundred years before the birth 
•f Christ ; but his assertion, being unsupported, is worth nothing, 
t would appear, however, that pretenders to the art of making gold 
,nd silver existed in Rome in the first centuries after the Christian 
ra, and that, when discovered, they were liable to punishment as 
:naves and impostors. At Constantinople, in the fourth century, 
he transmutation of metals was very generally believed in, and many 
f the Greek ecclesiastics wrote treatises upon the subject. Their 
Lames are preserved, and some notice of their works given, in the 
bird volume of Langlet du Fresnoy's History of the Hermetic PhUo- 
ophy. Their notion appears to have been, that all metals were com- 
posed of two substances ; the one, metallic earth ; and the other, a 
ed inflammable matter, which they called sulphur. The pure union 
f these substances formed gold ; but other metals were mixed with 
nd contaminated by various foreign ingredients. The object of the 
ihilosopher's stone was to dissolve or neutralise all these ingredients, 
y which iron, lead, copper, and all metals would be transmuted into 
he original gold. Many learned and clever men wasted their time, 
heir health, and their energies, in this vain pursuit ; but for several 
enturies it took no great hold upon the imagination of the people. 
?he history of the delusion appears, in a manner, lost from this time 
ill the eighth century, when it appeared amongst the Arabians, 
^rom this period it becomes easier to trace its progress. A master 
hen appeared, who was long looked upon as)the father of the science, 
nd whose name is indissolubly connected with it. 

Geber. 

Of this philosopher, who devoted his life to the study of alchymy, 
ut few particulars are known. He is thought to have lived in the 
ear 730. His true name was Abou Moussah Djafar, to which was 
dded Al Sofi, or " The Wise," and he was bom at Houran, in Meso- 
otamia.* Some have thought he was a Greek, others a Spaniard, 
nd others a prince of Hindostan ; but of all the mistakes which have 
een made respecting him, the most ludicrous was that made by the 
'rench translator of Sprenger's History of MedicvMy who thought, 

* £ioffraphie UnwerselU. 









THE ALCHYMISTS. 97 

from the sound of his name, that he was a Carman, and rendered it 
as the "Donnateur," or Giver. No details of his life are known; 
but it is asserted, that he wrote more than five hundred works upon 
the philosopher's stone and the water of life. He was a great enthu- 
siast in his art, and compared the incredulous to little children shut 
up in a narrow room, without windows or aperture, who, because 
they saw nothing beyond, denied the existence of the great globe 
itself. He thought that a preparation of gold would cure all mala- 
dies, not only in man, but in the inferior animals and plants. He also 
imagined that all the metals laboured under disease, with the excep- 
tion of gold, which was the only one in perfect health. He affirmed, 
that the secret of the philosopher's stone had been more than once 
discovered ; but that the ancient and wise men who had hit upon 
it would never, by word or writing, communicate it to men, because of 
their unworthiness and incredulity.* But the life of Geber, though 
spent in the pursuit of this vain chimera, was not altogether useless. 
He stumbled upon discoveries which he did not seek ; and science is 
indebted to him for the first mention of corrosive sublimate, the red 
oxide of mercury, nitric acid, and the nitrate of silver, t 

For more than two hundred years after the death of Geber, the 
Arabian philosophers devoted themselves to the study of alchymy, 
joining with it that of astrology. Of these the most celebrated was 

Alfakabi. 

Alfarabi flourished at the commencement of the tenth century, 
and enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most learned men of 
his age. He spent his life in travelling from country to country, that 
he might gather the opinions of philosophers upon the great secrets of 
nature. No danger dismayed him ; no toil wearied him of the pur- 
suit. Many sovereigns endeavoured to retain him at their courts; 
but he refused to rest untU he had discovered the great object of 
his life — the art of preserving it for centuries, and of making gold 
as much as he needed. This wandering mode of life at last proved 
fatal to him. He had been on a visit to Mecca, not so much for re- 
ligious as for philosophical purposes, when, returning through Syria, 
he stopped at the court of the Sultan Seifeddoulet, who was re- 

* His sQm " of perfection," or instructions to students to aid them in the laborious 
search for the stone and elixir, has been translated into most of the languages of Europe. 
An English translation, by a great enthusiast in alchymj, one Richard Russell, was 
published in London in 1686. The preface is dated eight years preriously from the house 
of the alchymist, " at the Star, in Newmarket, in Wapping, near the Dock." His design 
in undertaking the translation was, as he informs us, to expose the false pretences of the 
many ignorant pretenders to the science who abounded in his day. 

t Article, Geber, Biograpkie UnweraeUe. 

r 7 



98 EXTRA^OBDINiLRY POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

nowned as the patron of learning. He presented himself in his tra- 
velling attire in the presence of that monarch and his courtiers ; and, 
without invitation, coolly sat himself down on the sofa beside the 
prince. The courtiers and wise men were indignant ; and the sul- 
tan, who did not know the intruder, was at first inclined to follow 
their example. He turned to one of his officers, and ordered him to 
eject the presumptuous stranger from the room ; but Alfarabi, with- 
out moving, dared them to lay hands upon him ; and, turning him- 
self calmly to the prince, remarked, that he did not know who was 
his guest, or he would treat him with honour, not with violence. 
The sultan, instead of being still further incensed, as many poten- 
tates would have been, admired his coolness; and, requesting him 
to sit still closer to him on the sofa, entered into a long conversation 
with him upon science and divine philosophy. All the court were 
charmed with the stranger. Questions for discussion were pro- 
pounded, on all of which he shewed superior knowledge. He con- 
vinced every one who ventured to dispute with him ; and spoke so 
eloquently upon the science of alchymy, that he was at once recog- 
nised as only second to the great Geber himself. One of the doctors 
present inquired whether a man who knew so many sciences was ac- 
quainted with music ? Alfarabi made no reply, but merely requested 
that a lute should be brought him. The lute was brought ; and he 
played such ravishing and tender melodies, that all the court were 
melted into tears. He then changed his theme, and played airs so 
sprightly, that he set the grave philosophers, sultan and all, dancing 
as fast as their legs could carry them. He then sobered them again 
by a mournful strain, and made them sob and sigh as if broken- 
hearted. The sultan, highly delighted with his powers, entreated 
him to stay, offering him every inducement that wealth, power, and 
dignity could supply ; but the alchymist resolutely refused, it being 
decreed, he said, that he should never repose till he had discovered 
the philosopher's stone. He set out accordingly the same evening, 
and was murdered by some thieves in the deserts of Syria. His bio- 
graphers give no further particulars of his life beyond mentioning 
that he wrote several valuable treatises on his art, all of which, 
however, have been lost. His death happened in the year 954. 

AVICENNA. 

Aviceuna, whose real name was Ebn Cinna, another great alchymist, 
was bom at Bokhara in 980. His reputation as a physician and 
a man skilled in all sciences was so great, that the Sultan Magdal 
Douleth resolved to try his powers in the great science of government. 
He was accordingly made Grand Vizier of that prince, and ruled the 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 99 

state with some advantage ; but in a science still more difficulty he 
failed completely. He could not rule his own passions, but gave 
himself up to wine and women, and led a life of shameless debauchery. 
Amid the multifarious pursuits of business and pleasure, he never- 
theless found time to write seven treatises upon the philosopher's 
stone, which were for many ages looked upon as of great value by 
pretenders to the art. It is rare that an eminent physician as Avicenna 
appears to have been, abandons himself to sensual gratification ; but 
so completely did he become enthralled in the course of a few years, 
that he was dismissed from his high office, and died shortly after- 
wards of premature old age and a complication of maladies, brought 
on by debauchery. His death took place in the year 1036. After 
his time few philosophers of any note in Arabia are heard of as 
devoting themselves to the study of alchymy ; but it began shortly 
afterwards to attract greater attention in Europe. Learned men in 
France, England, Spain, and Italy, expressed their belief in the 
science, and many devoted their whole energies to it. In the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries especially, it was extensively pursued, and 
some of the brightest names of that age are connected with it. Among 
the most eminent of them are 

Albeetus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas. 

The first of these philosophers was bom in the year 1193, of a noble 
fiamily at Lawingen, in the Duchy of Neuburg, on the Danube. For 
the first thirty years of his life he appeared remarkably dull and 
stupid, and it was feared by every one that no good could come of 
him. He entered a Dominican monastery at an early age ; but made 
so little progress in his studies, that he was more than once upon the 
point of abandoning them in despair, but he was endowed with extra- 
ordinary perseverance. As he advanced to middle age, his mind ex- 
panded, and he learned whatever he applied himself to with extreme 
facility. So remarkable a change was not in that age to be accounted 
for but by a miracle. It was asserted and believed that the Holy 
Virgin, touched with his great desire to become learned and famous, 
took pity upon his incapacity, and appeared to him in the cloister 
where he sat almost despairing, and asked him whether he wished to 
excel in philosophy or divinity. He chose philosophy, to the chagrin 
of the Virgin, who reproached him in mild and setrrowful accents 
that he had not made a better choice. She, howev^, granted his 
request, that he should become the most excellent philosopher of the 
age ; but set this drawback to his pleasure^ that he should relapse, 
when at the height of his fame, into his former incapacity and 
stupidity. Albertus never took the trouble to contradict the story, 



1 00 EXTEAOBDINAaT POPTTLiB DELUSIONS. 



but prosecuted hia studies with such unremitting zeal, that his repu- 
tatiou speedily spread over all Europe. In tho year 124 ' , the cele- 
brated Thomas Aquinas placed himself under his tuition. Many 
extraordinary stories are told of the master and his pupil. While 
they piud all due attention to other 
branches of science, they never neglect- 
ed the pursuit of the phil<)sopher's atone 
and the dixir viUx. Although they dia- 
covered neither, it was believed that 
Albert had seized some portion of the 
secret of life, and found means to ani- 
mate a brazen statue, upon the forma- 
tion of which, under proper conjunc- 
tions of the planets, he had been occu- 
pied many years of hie life. He and 
Thomas Aquinas completed it together, endowed it with the faculty 
of speech, and made it perform the functions of a domestic servant. 
In this capacity it was exceedingly uaeful ; but, through some defect 
in the machinery, it chattered much more than was agreeable to 
either philosopher. Various remedies nere tried to cure it of its 
garrulity, but in vain ; and one day, Thomas Aquinaa was so en- 
raged at the noise it made when he was in the midst of a mathe- 
matical problem, that he seized a ponderous hammer and smashed 
it to pieces.* He was sorry afterwards for what he had done, 
and was reproved by his master for giving way to his anger, so unbe- 
coming in a philosopher. They made no attempt to re<auimate the 
statue- 
Such stories as these shew the spirit of the age. Every great man 
who attempted to stndy the secrets of nature was thought a magician ; 
and it is not to be wondered at that, when philosophers themselves 
pretended to discover an elixir for conferring immortality, or a red 
stone which was to create boundless wealth, that popular opinion 
should have enhanced upon their pretensions, and have endowed 
them with powers still more miraculous. It was believed of Albertus 
Magnus that he could even change the course of the seasons, a feat 
which the many thought less difficult than the discovery of the grand 
elixir. Albertus was desirous of obtaining a pieoe of ground on which 
to build a monastery in the neighbourhood of Cologne. The ground 
belonged to William Count of Holland and King of the Romans, who 
for some reason or other did not wish to part with it. Albertus is 
reported to have gained it by the following eitraordinaiy method : 

• Naudi, itpslcffK'lu «rai><Jifi«MW<KeiiWtiJ(ifivu,dii^iTlU. 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 101 

He inyited the prince as he was passing through Cologne to a mag- 
nificent entertainment prepared for him and all his court. The prince 
accepted it, and repaired with a lordly retinue to the residence of the 
sage. It was in the midst of winter, the Rhine was frozen over, and 
the cold was so bitter, that the knights could not sit on horseback 
without running the risk of losing their toes by the frost. Great, 
therefore, was their surprise, on arriving at Albert's house, to find 
that the repast was spread in his garden, in which the snow had 
drifted to the depth of several feet. The earl in high dudgeon re- 
mounted his steed, but Albert at last prevailed upon him to take his 
seat at the table. He had no sooner done so, than the dark clouds 
rolled away from the sky — a warm sun shone forth — the cold north 
wind veered suddenly round and blew a mild breeze from the south 
— ^the snows melted away — ^the ice was unbound upon the streams, 
and the trees put forth their green leaves and their fruit — flowers 
sprang up beneath their feet, while larks, nightingales, blackbirds, 
cuckoos, thrushes, and every sweet song-bird sang hymns from every 
tree. The earl and his attendants wondered greatly; but they ate 
their dinner, and in recompense for it, Albert got his piece of ground 
to build a convent on. He had not, however, shewn them all his 
power. Immediately that the repast was over, he gave the word, 
and dark clouds obscured the sun — the snow fell in large flakes — the 
singing-birds fell dead — the leaves dropped from the trees, and the 
winds blew so cold and howled so mournfully, that the guests wrap- 
ped themselves up in their thick cloaks, and retreated into the house 
to warm themselves at the blazing fire in Albert's kitchen.* 

Thomas Aquinas also could work wonders as well as his master. 
It is related of him that he lodged in a street at Cologne, where he 
was much annoyed by the incessant clatter made by the horses' hoofs, 
as they were led through it daily to exercise by their grooms. He 
had entreated the latter to select some other spot, where they might 
not disturb a philosopher ; but the grooms turned a deaf ear to all his 
solicitations. In this emergency he had recourse to the aid of magic. 
He constructed a small horse of bronze, upon which he inscribed cer- 
tain cabalistic characters, and buried it at midnight in the midst of 
the highway. The next morning a troop of grooms came riding along 
as usual ; but the horses, as they arrived at the spot where the magic 
horse was buried, reared and plunged violently — their nostrils dis- 
tended with terror — their manes grew erect, and the perspiration ran 
down their sides in streams. In vain the riders applied the spur — 
in vain they coaxed or threatened, the animals would not pass the 

* Lenglet, Hiatoire de la PhUosophie JlermStique. See also Godwin's Lives of tJie 
Necromancers. 



102 EXTBAOBDINABT POFULAB DELUSIONS. 

spot. On the following day their success was no better* They were 
at length compelled to seek another spot for their exercise, and 
Thomas Aquinas was left in peace. ^ 

Albertus Magnus was made Bishop of Ratisbon in 1259 ; but he 
occupied the see only four years, when he resigned, on the ground 
that its duties occupied too much of the time which he was anxious 
to devote to philosophy. He died in Cologne in 1280, at the advanced 
age of eighty-seven. The Dominican writers deny that he ever sought 
the philosopher's stone, but his treatise upon minerals sufficiently 
proves that he did. 

Artephitjs. 

Artephius, a name noted in the annals of alchymy, was bom in 
the early part of the twelfth century. He wrote two famous treatises ; 
the one upon the philosopher's stone, and the other on the art of pro- 
longing human life. In the latter he vaunts his great qualifications 
for instructing mankind on such a matter, as he was at that time in 
the thousand and twenty-fifth year of his age ! He had many dis- 
ciples who believed in his extreme age, and who attempted to prove 
that he was Apollonius of Tyana, who lived soon after the advent of 
Jesus Christ, and the particulars of whose life and pretended miracles 
have been so fully described by Philostratus. He took good care 
never to contradict a story which so much increased the power he 
was desirous of wielding over his fellow-mortals. On all convenient 
occasions, he boasted of it; and having an excellent memory, a fertile 
imagination, and a thorough knowledge of all existing history, he 
was never at a loss for an answer when questioned as to the personal 
appearance, the manners, or the character of the great men of anti- 
quity. He also pretended to have found the philosopher's stone ; 
and said that, in search of it, he had descended to hell, and seen the 
devil sitting on a throne of gold, with a legion of imps and fiends 
around him. His works on alchymy have been translated into French, 
and were published in Paris in 1609 or 1610. 

Alain de Lisle. 

Contemporary with Albertus Magnus was Alain de Lisle of Flan- 
ders, who was named, from his great learning, the "universal doctor." 
He was thought to possess a knowledge of all the sciences, and, like 
Artephius, to have discovered the elixir vitoe. He became one of the 
friars of the abbey of Citeaux, and died in 1298, aged about one 
hundred and ten years. It was said of him that he was at the point 
of death when in his fiftieth year, but that the fortunate discovery of 

* Naud6, Apciogie des Grands Hommes accusis de Magie, chap. xvii. 



TEE ALCHTICISTS. 103 

the elixir enabled him to add sixtj years to his existence. He wrote a 
commentary on the prophecies of Merlin. 

Arnold be Villbneuve. 

This philosopher has left a, much greater reputation. He was bom 
in the year 1245, and studied medicine with great hucccsb in the uni- 
Tersity of Paris. He afterwards travelled for twenty years in Italy 
and Germany, where he made acquaintance with Pietro d'Apone, a 
man of a character atin to his own, and addicted to the same pur- 
suits. Ae a physician, he was thought, in his own lifetime, to be the 
most able the world had ever seen. Like all the learned men of that 
day, he dabbled in astrology and alchymy, and was thought to have 
made immense quantities of gold from lead and copper. When Pietro 
d'Apone was arrested in Italy, and brought to trial as a sorcerer, a 
similar accusation was made against Arnold j but be managed to leave 
the country in time, and es- 
cape the fate of hia unfortu- 
nate friend. He lost some 
credit by predicting the end 
of the world, but ^terwards 
regained it. The time of his 
death is not exactly known ; 
but it must have been prior 
to the year 1311, when Pope 
Clement V. wrote a circular 
letter to all the clergy of 
Europe who lived under his 
obedience, praying them to 
use their utmost efforts to 
discover the famous treatise 

of Arnold on TAe Practiee of '""'" "' "'■'•"«''"■ 

Medicine. The author had promised, during his lifetime, to make a 
present of the work to the Holy See, but died without fulfilling it. 

In a veij curious work by Monsieur longeville Harcouet, entitled 
The Hiatory of the Pergom mho have lived teveral centuries and then 
grown yowng again, there is a receipt, said to have been given by 
Arnold de Villeneuve, by means of which any one might prolong his 
life for a few hundred years or so. In the first place, say Arnold and 
Monsieur Harcouet, "the person intending BO to prolong his life must 
rub himself well, two or three times a week, with the juice or marrow 
of cassia {mo3le de la casae). Every night, upon going to bed, he 
must put upon bis heart a plaster, composed of a certain quantity of 
oriental saffron, red rose-leaves, sandal- wood, aloes, and amber, liqui- 



104 EXTBAORDINAKY POPULAK DELUSIONS. 

fied in oil of roses and the best white wax. In the morning, he must 
take it off, and enclose it carefully in a leaden box till the next night, 
when it must be again applied. If he be of a sanguine temperament, 
he shall take sixteen chickens ; if phlegmatic, twenty-five ; and if 
melancholy, thirty, which he shall put into a yard where the air and 
the water are pure. Upon these he is to feed, eating one a day ; but 
previously the chickens are to be fattened by a peculiar method, which 
will impregnate their flesh with the qualities that are to produce 
longevity in the eater. Being jieprived of all other nourishment till 
they are almost dying of hunger, they are to be fed upon broth made 
of serpents and vinegar, which broth is to be thickened with wheat 
and bran." Various oeremonies are to be performed in the cooking 
of this mess, which those may see in the book of M. Harcouet who 
are at all interested in the matter ; and the chickens are to be fed 
upon it for two months. They are then fit for table, and are to be 
washed down with moderate quantities of good white wine or claret. 
This regimen is to be followed regularly every seven years, and any 
one may liv«J tb be as old fts Methuselah ! It is right to state that 
M. Harcoiiet hctd but little authority for attributing this precious 
compositimi to Arnold of Villeneuve. It is not found in the collected 
works of that philowopher ♦ but %as first brought to light by a M. Poirier, 
at the comtDeilcement of the feixteenth century, who asserted that he 
had discovered it in ms. in the undoubted writing of Arnold. 

tlBTRo d'Apone. 

This untticky Ssi|[e irtui bom at Apone, near Padua, in the year 
1250. Like his {Hend Arnold de Villeneuve, he was an eminent 
physician, and a pretender to the arts of astrology and alchjrmy. He 
practised for many years in Paris, and made great wealth by killing 
and curing, and telling fortunes. In an evil day for him, he returned 
to his own country, with the reputation of being a magician of the 
first order. It was universally believed that he had drawn seven evil 
spirits from the infernal regions, whom he kept enclosed in seven 
ciystal vases until he required their services, when he sent them 
forth to the ends of the earth to execute his pleasure. One spirit 
excelled in philosophy ; a second, in alchymy ; a third, in astro- 
logy ; a fourth, in physic ; a fifth, in poetry ; a sixth, in music ; 
and the seventh, in painting: and whenever Pietro wished for in- 
formation or instruction in any of these arts, he had only to go 
to his crystal vase and liberate the presiding spirit. Immediately- 
all the secrets of the art were revealed to him ; and he might, if it 
pleased him, excel Homer in poetry, Apelles in painting, or Pytha- 
goras himself in philosophy. Although he could make gold out of 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 105 

brass, it was said of him that he was very sparing of his powers in 
that respect, and kept himself constantly supplied with money by other 
and less creditable means. Whenever he disbursed gold, he muttered 
a certain charm, known only to himself, and next morning the gold 
was safe again in his own possession. The trader to whom he gave 
it might lock it in his strong box and have it guarded by a troop of 
soldiers, but the charmed metal flew back to its old master. Even 
if it were buried in the earth, or thrown into the sea, the dawn of 
the next morning would behold it in the pockets of Pietro. Few 
people, in consequence, liked to have dealings with such a personage, 
especially for gold. Some, bolder than the rest, thought that his 
power did not extend over silver ; but, when they made the experi- 
ment, they found themselves mistaken. Bolts and bars could not 
restrain it, and it sometimes became invisible in their very hands, 
and was whisked through the air to the purse of the magician. He 
necessarily acquired a very bad character ; and, having given utter- 
ance to some sentiments regarding religion which were the very 
reverse of orthodox, he was summoned before the tribunals of the 
Inquisition to answer for his crimes as a heretic and a sorcerer. He 
loudly protested his innocence, even upon the rack, where he suffered 
more torture than nature could support. He died in prison ere his 
trial was concluded, but was afterwards found guilty. His bones 
were ordered to be dug up and publicly burned. He was also burned 
in effigy in the streets of Padua. 

Raymond Lulli. 

While Arnold de Villeneuve and Pietro d'Apone flotuished in 
France and Italy, a more celebrated adept than either appeared in 
Spain. This was Raymond Lulli, a name wMch stands in the first 
rank among the alchymists. Unlike many of his predecessors, he 
made no pretensions to astrolc^ or necromancy ; but, taking Geber 
for his model, studied intently the nature and composition of metals, 
without reference to charms, incantations, or any foolish ceremonies. 
It was not, however, till late in life that he commenced his study of 
the art. His early and middle age were spent in a different manner, 
and his whole history is romantic in the extreme. He was bom of 
an illustrious family, in Majorca, in the year 1235. When that island 
was taken from the Saracens by James I. king of Aragon, in 1230, 
the father of Raymond, who was originally of Catalonia, settled there, 
and received a considerable appointment from the crown. Raymond 
married at an early age ; and, being fond of pleasure, he left the soli- 
tudes of his native isle, and passed over with his bride into Spain. 
He was made Grand Senesdial at the court of King James, and led 



106 EXTBAOBSDfABT FOFVUS DKLTTSIOHS. 

a gay life for several yeai^ Faithless to his wife, he was alwajs in 
the pursuit of some new beauty, till his heart was fixed at last by the 
lovetj but unkind Amhroua de Castello. This lady, like her admirer, 
was married ; but, unlike him, was fiiithful to her vows, and treated 
all hie solicitations with disdain. Raymond was so enamoured, that 
repulse only increased his flame ; he lingered all night under her 
windows, wrote passionate verses in her praise, neglected his affurs, 
and made himself the butt of all the courtiers. One day, while watch- 
ing under her lattice, he by chance caught sight of her bosom, as her 
neckerchief was blown aside by the wind. The fit of inspiration came 
over him, and he sat down and composed some tender stanzas upon 
the subject, and sent them to the 
lady. ThefairAmbrosiahadnever 
before condescended to answer hia 
letters ; but she replied to this. 
She told him that she could never 
listen to bis suit ; that it was un- 
becoming in a wise man to fix his 
thoughts, as he had done, on any 
other than his God ; and entreat- 
ed him to devote himself to a reli- 
gious life, and conquer the unwor- 
thy passion which he had suffered 
to consume him. She, however, of- 
fered, if he wished it, to shew him 
tbe/iiiVboBom which had so capti- 
vated him. Raymond was delight- 
ed. He thought the latter part of 
this epistle but ill corresponded 
>.T>iesBnn.M. with the former, and that Ambro- 

sia, in spite of the good advice she 
gave him, had at last relented, and would make him as happy as he 
desired. He followed her about from place to place, entreating her to 
fulfil her promiso : but still Ambrosia was cold, and implored him with 
teats to importune her no longer ; for that she never could be bis, and 
never would, if she were free to-morrow. " What means your letter, 
then V said the despairing lover. " I will shew you I" replied Am- 
brosia, who immediately uncovered her bosom, and exposed to the 
eyes of her horror-stricken admirer a large cancer which had extended 
to both breasts. She saw that he was shocked ; and, extending her 
hand to him, she prayed him once more to lead a religious life, and 
set his heart upon the Creator, and not upon the creature. He went 
home an altered man. He threw up, on the morrow, his valuable 



THE AXJCHT1II8SSU l<)7 

appointment at the court, separated from his wife, and took a fare- 
well of his children, after dividing one-half of his ample fortune 
among them. The other half he shared among the poor. He then 
threw himself at the foot of a crucifix, and devoted himself to the 
service of God, vowing, as the most acceptable atonement for his 
errors, that he would employ the remainder of his days in the task 
of converting the Mussulmans to the Christian religion. In his dreams 
he saw Jesus Christ, who said to him, " Raymond ! Rajrmond ! follow 
me !" The vision was three times repeated, and Raymond was con- 
vinced that it was an intimation direct from heaven. Having put his 
affairs in order, he set out on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James 
of Compostello, and afterwards lived for ten years in solitude amid 
the mountains of Aranda. Here he learned the Arabic, to qualify 
himself for his mission of converting the Mahometans. He also 
studied various sciences, as taught in the works of the learned men 
of the East, and first made acquaintance with the writings of Geber, 
which were destined to exercise so much influence over his future 
life. 

At the end of this probation, and when he had entered his fortieth 
year, he emerged from his solitude into more active life. With some 
remains of his fortune, which had accumulated during his retirement, 
he founded a college for the study of Arabic, which was approved of 
by the pope, with many commendations upon his zeal and piety. At 
this time he narrowly escaped assassination from an Arabian youth 
whom he had taken into his service. Raymond had prayed to God, 
in some of his accesses of fanaticism, that he might suffer martyrdom 
in his holy cause. His servant had overheard him ; and, being as 
great a fanatic as his master, he resolved to gratify his wish, and 
punish him, at the same time, for the curses which he incessantly 
launched against Mahomet and all who believed in him, by stabbing 
him to the heart. He therefore aimed a blow at his master as 
he sat one day at table ; but the instinct of self-preservation being 
stronger than the desire of martyrdom, Raymond grappled with his 
antagonist, and overthrew him. He scorned to take his life himself ; 
but handed him over to the authorities of the town, by whom he was 
afterwards found dead in his prison. 

After this adventure Raymond travelled to Paris, where he resided 
for some time, and made the acquaintance of Arnold de Villeneuve. 
From him he probably received some encouragement to search for 
the philosopher's stone, as he began from that time forth to devote 
less of his attention to religious matters, and more to the study of 
alchymy. Still he never lost sight of the great object for which he 
lived — the conversion of the Mahometans — and proceeded to Rome, 



108 EXTBAOBDINJkJKY FOFULAS, DELUSIONS. 

to communicate personally with Pope John XXI. on the best mea- 
sures to be adopted for that end. The Pope gave him encouragement 
in words, but failed to associate any other persons with him in the 
enterprise which he meditated. Raymond, therefore, set out for 
Tunis alone, and was kindly receiyed by many Arabian philosophers, 
who had heard of his fame as a professor of alchymy. If he had stuck 
to alchymy while in their country, it would hare been well for him ; 
but he began cursing Mahomet, and got himself into trouble. While 
preaching the doctrines of Christianity in the great bazaar of Tunis, 
he was arrested and thrown into prison. He was shortly afterwards 
brought to trial, and sentenced to death. Some of his philosophic 
friends interceded hard for him, and he was pardoned upon condition 
that he left Africa immediately and never again set foot in it. If he 
was found there again, no matter what his object might be, or what- 
ever length of time might intervene, his original sentence would be 
carried into execution. Raymond was not at all solicitous of martyr- 
dom when it came to the point, whatever he might have been when 
there was no danger, and he gladly accepted his life upon these con- 
ditions, and left Tunis with the intention of proceeding to Rome. 
He afterwards changed his plan, and established himself at Milan, 
where, for a length of time, he practised alchymy, and some say 
astrology, with great success. 

Most writers who believed in the secrets of alchymy, and who 
have noticed the life of Raymond Lulli, assert, that while in Milan, 
he received letters from Edward King of England, inviting him to 
settle in his states. They add that Lulli gladly accepted the invi- 
tation, and had apartments assigned for his use in the Tower of 
London; where he refined much gold ; superintended the coinage of 
*' rose-nobles," and made gold out of iron, quicksilver, lead, and 
pewter, to the amount of six millions. The writers in the Biographie 
Universelley an excellent authority in general, deny that Rajrmond 
was ever in England, and say, that in all these stories of his wondrous 
powers as an alchymist, he has been mistaken for another Raymond, 
a Jew of Tarragona. Naud6, in his Apotogie^ says, simply, " that six 
millions were given by Raymond Lulli to King Edward, to make war 
against the Turks and other infidels :" not that he transmuted so much 
metal into gold ; but, as he afterwards adds, that he advised Edward 
to lay a tax upon wool, which produced that amount. To shew that 
Raymond went to England, his admirers quote a work attributed to 
him, De TransmutcUioThe Animoe MetaUorum^ in which he expressly 
says that he was in England at the intercession of the king.* The her- 

* Vidimus omnia ista dum ad Anglvam transiimus, propter intercessionem domini Regis 
Edoa^rdi Wustrissimi, 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 109 

metic writers are not agreed whether it was Edward I. or Edward II. 
who invited him over ; but, by fixing the date of his journey in 1312, 
they make it appear that it was Edward II. Edmond Dickenson, in 
his work on the Quintessences of the Philosophers^ says, that Rajnnond 
worked in Westminster Abbey, where, a long time after his depar- 
ture, there was found in the cell which he had occupied a great 
quantity of golden dust, of which the architects made a great profit. 
In the biographical sketch of John Cremer, Abbot of Westminster, 
given by Lenglet, it is said that it was chiefly through his instrumen- 
tality that Raymond came to England. Cremer had been himself for 
thirty years occupied in the vain search for the philosopher's stone, 
when he accidentally met Raymond in Italy, and endeavoured to in- 
duce him to communicate his grand secret. Raymond told him that 
he must find it for himself, as all great alchymists had done before 
him. Cremer, on his return to England, spoke to King Edward in 
high terms of the wonderful attainments of the philosopher, and a 
letter of invitation was forthwith sent him. Robert Constantinus, 
in the NomendcUor Scriptorum Medkorum^ published in 1515, says, 
that after a great deal of research, he found that Raymond Lulli 
resided for some time in London, and that he actually made gold, by 
means of the philosopher's stone, in the Tower ; that he had seen the 
golden pieces of his coinage, which were still named in England the 
nobles of Raymond, or rose-nobles. LulU himself appears to have 
boasted that he made gold ; for, in his well-known TestamenttMn, he 
states that he converted no less than fifty thousand pounds weight 
of quicksilver, lead, and pewter into that metal.* It seems highly 
probable that the English king, believing in the extraordinary powers 
of the alchymist, invited him to England to make test of them, and 
that he was employed in refining gold and in coining. Camden, who 
is not credulous in matters like these, affords his countenance to the 
story of his coinage of nobles ; and there is nothing at all wonderful 
in the fact of a man famous for his knowledge of metals being employed 
in such a capacity. Raymond was, at this time, an old man, in his 
seventy-seventh year, and somewhat in his dotage. He was willing 
enough to have it believed that he had discovered the grand secret, 
and supported the rumour rather than contradicted it. He did not 
long remain in England, but returned to Rome to carry out the pro- 
jects which were nearer to his heart than the profession of alchymy. 
He had proposed them to several successive popes with little or no 
success. The first was a plan for the introduction of the oriental 
languages into all the monasteries of Europe ; the second, for the 

* Converti una vice in anrum ad L miUia pondo argent! vivl, plnmblf et Btauni.— 
LuUii Tettamentum. 



1 1 EXTBAORDINABY POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

reduction into one of all the military orders, that, being united, they 
might move more efficaciously against the Saracens ; and the third, 
that the sovereign pontiff should forbid the works of Averroes to be 
read in the schools, as being more favourable to Mahometanism than 
to Christianity. The pope did not receive the old man with much 
cordiality ; and, after remaining for about two years in Rome, he 
proceeded once more to Africa, alone and unprotected, to preach the 
Gospel of Jesus. He landed at Bona in 1314, and so irritated the 
Mahometans by cursing their prophet, that they stoned him, and left 
him for dead on the sea-shore. He was found some hours afterwards 
by a party of Genoese merchants, who conveyed him on board their 
vessel, and sailed towards Maj orca. The unf curtunate man still breathed, 
but could not articulate. He lingered in this state for some days, 
and expired just as the vessel arrived within sight of his native shores. 
His body was conveyed with great pomp to the church of St. Eulalia, 
at Palma, where a public funeral was instituted in his honour. Mi- 
racles were afterwards said to have been worked at his tomb. 

Thus ended the career of Raymond Lulli, one of the most extra- 
ordinary men of his age } and, with the exception of his last boast 
about the six millions of gold, the least inclined to quackery of any 
of the professors of alchjrmy. His writings were very numerous, and 
include nearly five hundred volumes, upon gnunmar, rhetoric, morals, 
theology, politics, civil and canon law, physics, metaphysics,astronomy, 
medicine, and chemistry. 

RoGEB. Bacon. 

The powerful delusion of alchymy seized upon a mind still greater 
than that of Raymond Lulli. Roger Bacon firmly believed in the 
philosopher's stone, and spent much of his time in search of it. His 
example helped to render all the learned men of the time more con- 
vinced of its practicability, and more eager in the pursuit. He was 
bom at Ilchester, in the county of Somerset, in the year 1214. He 
studied for some time in the University of Oxford, and afterwards in 
that of Paris, in which he received the degree of doctor of divinity. 
Returning to England in 1240, he became a monk of the order of St. 
Francis. He was by far the most learned man of his age ; and his 
acquirements were so much above the comprehension of his contem- 
poraries, that they could only account for them by supposing that he 
was indebted for them to the devil. Voltaire has not inaptly de- 
signated him " De Tor encrout6 de toutes les ordures de son si^cle ; " 
but the crust of superstition that enveloped his powerful mind, though 
it may have dimmed, could not obscure the brightness of his genius. 
To him, and apparently to him only, among all the inquiring spirits 



THE ALCHYMIST8. Ill 

of the time, were known the properties of the concave and convex 
lens. He also invented the magic lantern ; that pretty plaything of 
modem days, which acquired for him a reputation that embittered 
his life. In a history of alchymy, the name of this great man cannot 
be omitted, although unlike many others of whom we shall have 
occasion to speak, he only made it secondary to other pursuits. The 
love of universal knowledge that filled his mind, would not allow him 
to neglect one branch of science, of which neither he nor the world 
could yet see the absurdity. He made ample amends for his time lost 
in this pursuit by his knowledge in physics and his acquaintance with 
astronomy. The telescope, burning-glasses, and gunpowder, are dis- 
coveries which may well carry his fame to the remotest time, and 
make the world blind to the one spot of folly — the diagnosis of the 
age in which he lived, and the circumstances by which he was sur- 
rounded. His treatise on the Admirable Power of Art and Nature in 
the Production of the Philosopher's Stone was translated into French by 
Girard de Tormes, and published at Lyons in 1557. His Mirror of 
Alchi/my was also published in French in the same year, and in Paris 
in 1612, with some additions from the works of Raymond Lulli. A 
complete list of all the published treatises upon the subject may be 
seen in Lenglet du Fresnoy. 

Pope John XXII. 

This prelate is said to have been the friend and pupil of Arnold 
de Villeneuve, by whom he was instructed in all the secrets of alchymy. 
Tradition asserts of him, that he made great quantities of gold, and 
died as rich as Croesus. He was bom at Cahors, in the province of 
Guienne, in the year 1244. He was a very eloquent preacher, and 
soon reached high dignity in the Church. He wrote a work on the 
transmutation of metals, and had a famous laboratory at Avignon. 
He issued two bulls against the numerous pretenders to the art, who 
had sprung up in every part of Christendom ; from which it might be 
inferred that he was himself free from the delusion. The alchymists 
claim him, however, as one of the most distinguished and successful 
professors of their art, and say that his bulls were not directed 
against the real adepts, but the false pretenders. They lay particular 
stress upon these words in his bull, " Spondent, quas non exhibent, 
divitias, pauper es alchymistse." These, it is clear, they say, relate 
only to poor alchymists, and therefore false ones. He died in the 
year 1344, leaving in his coffers a: sum of eighteen millions of florins. 
Popular belief alleged that he had made, and not amassed, this treasure ; 
and alchymists complacently cite this as a proof that the philosopher's 
stone was not such a chimera as the incredulous pretended. They 



112 EXTRA.ORDINAEY FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

take it for granted that Johu really left this money, and ask by what 
possible means he could have accumulated it. Replying to their own 
question, they say triumphantly, " His book shews it was by alchymy, 
the secrets of which he learned from Arnold de Villeneuve and Ray- 
mond Lulli. But he was as prudent as all other hermetic philoso- 
phers. Whoever would read his book to find out his secret, would 
employ all his labour in vain ; the pope took good care not to divulge 
it." Unluckily for their own credit, all these gold-makers are in the 
same predicament ; their great secret loses its worth most wonderfully 
in the telling, and therefore they keep it snugly to themselves. Per- 
haps they thought that, if everybody could transmute metals, gold 
would be so plentiful that it would be no longer valuable, and that 
some new art would be requisite to transmute it back again into steel 
and iron. If so, society is much indebted to them for their forbear- 
ance. 

Jean de Meung. 

All classes of men dabbled in the art at this time ; the last men- 
tioned was a pope, the one of whom we now speak was a poet. Jean 
de Meung, the celebrated author of the Roman de la Mosey was bom 
in the year 1279 or 1280, and was a great personage at the courts of 
Louis X., Philip the Long, Charles IV., and Philip de Valois. His 
famous poem of the Roman de la Rose, which treats of every subject 
in vogue at that day, necessarily makes great mention of alchymy. 
Jean was a firm believer in the art, and wrote, besides his Roman, 
two shorter poems, the one entitled The Remonstrance of Nature to 
the wandering Alchymist and The Reply of the Alchymist to Nature, 
Poetry and alchymy were his delight, and priests and women were his 
abomination. A pleasant story is related of him and the ladies of the 
court of Charles IV. He had written the following libellous couplet 
upon the fair sex : 

** Toutes IteS; serez, ou fiites, 
De fait ou de volont^, putajns ; 
Et qui tres bien vous chercherait, 
Toutes putains vous trouverait."* 

This naturally gave great offence ; and being perceived one day in the 
king's antechamber, by some ladies who were waiting for an audience, 
they resolved to punish him. To the number of ten or twelve, they 
armed themselves with canes and rods, and surrounding the unlucky 
poet, called upon the gentlemen present to strip him naked, that they 
might wreak just vengeance upon him, and lash him through the 

• These verses are but a coarser expression of the slanderous line of Pope, that 
* every woman in at heart a rake." 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 113 

streets of the town. Some of the lords present were in no wise loath, 
and promised themselves great sport from his punishment. But Jean 
de Meung was unmoved by their threats, and stood up calmly in the 
midst of them, begging them to hear him first, and then, if not satisfied, 
they might do as they liked with him. Silence being restored, he 
stood upon a chair, and entered on his defence. He acknowledged 
that he was the author of the obnoxious verses, but denied that they 
bore reference to all womankind. He only meant to speak of the 
vicious and abandoned, whereas those whom he saw around him were 
patterns of virtue, loveliness, and modesty. If, however, any lady 
present thought herself aggrieved, he would consent to be stripped, 
and she might lash him till her arms were wearied. It is added, that 
by this means Jean escaped his flogging, and that the wrath of the 
fair ones immediately subsided. The gentlemen present were, how- 
ever, of opinion, that if every lady in the room whose character cor- 
responded with the verses had taken him at his word, the poet would 
in all probability have been beaten to death. All his life long he 
evinced a great animosity towards the priesthood, and his famous 
poem abounds with passages reflecting upon their avarice, cruelty, and 
immorality. At his death he left a large box, filled with some weighty 
material, which he bequeathed to the Cordeliers, as a peace-offering, 
for the abuse he had lavished upon them. As his practice of alchymy 
was well known, it was thought the box was filled with gold and silver, 
and the Cordeliers congratulated each other on their rich acquisition. 
When it came to be opened, they found to their horror that it was 
filled only with dates, scratched with hieroglyphic and cabalistic charac- 
ters. Indignant at the insult, they determined to refuse him Christian 
burial, on pretence that he was a sorcerer. He was, however, honour- 
ably buried in Paris, the whole court attending his funeral. 

Nicholas Elamel. 

The story of this alchymist, as handed down by tradition, and 
enshrined in the pages of Lenglet du Fresnoy, is not a little marvel- 
lous. He was bom at Pontoise, of a poor but respectable family, at 
the end of the thirteenth, or beginning of the fourteenth century. 
Having no patrimony, he set out for Paris at an early age, to try his 
fortune as a public scribe. He had received a good education, was 
well skilled in the learned languages, and was an excellent penman. 
He soon procured occupation as a letter-writer and copyist, and used 
to sit at the comer of the Rue de Marivaux, and practise his calling ; 
but he hardly made profit enough to keep body and soul together. 
To mend his fortunes he tried poetry ; but this was a more wretched 
occupation still. As a transcriber he had at least gained bread and 

8 



114 EXTBAOEDIKABT POPtTIA» DELTTSIONS. 

cheese; but his rhymes were not worth a crust. He then tried 
painting with as little success ; and as a last resource, began to search 
for the philosopher's stone and tell fortunes. This was a happier 
idea ; he soon increased in substance, and had wherewithal to live 
comfortably. He therefore took unto himself his wife Petrosella, 
and began to save money ; but continued to all outward appearance 
as poor and miserable as before. In the course of a few years, he 
became desperately addicted to the study of alchymy, and thought 
of nothing but the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, and the 
universal alkahest. In th« year 1257, he bought by chance an old 
book for two florins, which soon became his sole study. It was 
written with a steel instrument upon the bark of trees, and con- 
tained twenty-one, or as he himself always expressed it, three times 
seven, leaves. The writing was very elegant and in the Latin lan- 
guage. £ach seventh leaf contained a picture and no writing. On 
the first of these was a serpent swallowing rods ; on the second, a 
cross with a serpent crucified ; and on the third, the representation 
of a desert, in the midst of which was a fountain, with serpents crawl- 
ing from side to side. It purported to be written by no less a person- 
age than "Abraham, patriarch, Jew, prince, philosopher, priest, 
Levite, and astrologer ; " and invoked curses upon any one who 
should cast eyes upon it, without being " a sacrificer or a scribe." 
Nicholas Fktmel never thought it extraordinary that Abraham should 
have known Latin, and was convinced that the characters on his book 
had been traced by the hands of that great patriarch himself. He 
was at first afraid to read it, after he became aware of the curse 
it contained ; but he got over that difficulty by recollecting that, 
although he was not a sacrificer, he had practised as a scribe. As he 
read he was filled with admiration, and found that it was a perfect 
treatise upon the transmutation of metals. All the processes were 
clearly explained; the vessels, the retorts, the mixtures, and the pro- 
per times and seasons for experiment. But as ill-luck would have 
it, the possession of the philosopher's stone, or prime agent in the 
work, was presupposed. This was a difficulty which was not to be 
got over. It was like telling a starving man how to cook a beef- 
steak, instead of giving l>inn the money to buy one. But Nicholas 
did not despair, and set about studying the hieroglyphics and allego- 
rical representations with which the book abounded. He soon con- 
vinced himself that it had been one of the sacred books of the Jews, 
and that it was taken from the temple of Jerusalem on its destruction 
by Titus. The process of reasoning by which he arrived at this con- 
elusion is not stated. 

From some expression in the treatise, he learned that the all^o- 



* THE ALCHTMISTS. ' 115 

rical drawings on the fourth and fifth leaves enshrined the secret of 
the philosopher's stone, without which all tK fine Latin of the direc- 
tions was utterly unavailing. He invited all che alchymists and learned 
men of Paris to come and examine them, but they all departed as wise 
as they came. Nobody could make any thing either of Nicholas or 
his lectures ; and some even went so far as to say that his invalu- 
able book was not worth a farthing. This was not to be borne ; and 
Nicholas resolved to discovier the great secret by himself, without 
troubling the philosophers. He found on the first page of the f otlrth 
leaf, the picture of Mercury attacked by an old man resembling 
Saturn or Time. The latter had an hour-glass on his head, and in 
his hand a scythe, with which he aimed a blow at Mercury's feet. 
The reverse of the leaf represented a flower griwing on^ a mountain 
top, shaken rudely by the wind, with a blue*altalk, red and white 
blossoms, and leaves of pure gold. Around it were a great number 
of dragons and griffins. On the first page of the fifth leaf was a fine 
garden, in the midst of which was a rose-tree in full bloom, supported 
against the trunk of a gigantic oak. At the^foot of this there bubbled 
up a fountain of milk-white water, which, forming a small stream, 
flowed through the garden, and was afterwards lost in the sands. On 
•the second page was a king, with a sword in his hand, superintending 
a number of soldiers, who, in execution of his orders, were killing a 
great multitude of young children, spuming the prayers and tears of 
their mothers, who tried to save them from destruction. The blood 
of the children was carefully collected by another party of soldiers, 
and put into a large vessel, in which two allegorical figures of the 
sun and moon were bathing themselves. 

For twenty-one years poor Nicholas wearied himself with the 
study of these pictures, but still he could make nothing of them. 
His wife Petronella at last persuaded him to find out some leaiiied 
rabbi ; but there was no rabbi in Paris learned enough to be of any 
service to him. The Jews met but siaill encouragement to ^x their 
abode in France, and all the chiefs of that people were located in 
Spain. To Spain accordingly Nicholas Flamel repaired. He left his 
book in Paris, for fear, perhaps, that he might be robbed of it on the 
road ; and telling his neighbours that he was going on a pilgrimage 
to the shrine of St. James of Compostdlo, he trudged on foot towards 
Madrid in search of a rabbi. He was absent two years in that coun- 
try, and made himself known to a great number of Jews, descendants 
of those who had been expelled from franco in the reign of Philip 
Augustus. The believers in the philosopher's stone give the following 
account of his adventures : They say that at Leon he made the ac- 
quaintance of a converted Jew, named Oliuches, a very learned phy- 



r 



116f EXTBJLOBDINiLRY POPULAK DELUSIONS. 

sician, to whom he explained the title and nature of his little book. 
The doctor was transported with joy as soon as he heard it named, 
and immediately resolved to accompany Nicholas to Paris, that he 
might have a sight of it. The two set out together ; the doctor on 
the way entertaining his companion with the history of his book, 
which, if the genuine book he thought it to be, from the descrip- 
tion he had heard of it, was in the handwriting of Abraham himself, 
and had been in the possession of personages no less distinguished 
than Moses, Joshua, Solomon, and Esdras. It contained all the 
secrets of alchymy and of many other sciences, and was the most 
valuable book that had ever existed in this world. The doctor was 
himself no mean adept, and Nicholas profited greatly by his discourse, 
as in the garb of poor pilgrims they wended their way to Paris, con- 
vinced of their power to turn every old shovel in that capital into 
pure gold. But, unfortunately, when they reached Orleans, the doc- 
tor was taken dangerously ill. Nicholas watched by his bedside, and 
acted the double part of a physician and nurse to him ; but he died 
after a few days, lamenting with his last breath that he had not 
lived long enough to see the precious volume. Nicholas rendered 
the last honours to his body ; and with a sorrowful heart, and not 
one sou in his pocket, proceeded home to his wife Petronella. He . 
immediately recommenced the study of his pictures ; but for two 
whole years he was as far from understanding them as ever. At last, 
in the third year, a glimmer of light stole over his understanding. 
He recalled some expression of his friend the doctor, which had 
hitherto escaped his memory, and he found that all his previous ex- 
periments had been conducted on a wrong basis. He reconmienced 
them now with renewed energy, and at the end of the year had the 
satisfaction to see all his toils rewarded. On the 13th January 1382, 
says Lenglet, he made a projection on mercury, and had some very 
excellent silver. On the 25th April following, he converted a large 
quantity of mercury into gold, and the great secret was his. 

Nicholas was now about eighty years of age, and still a hale and 
stout old man. His friends say that by a simultaneous discovery of 
the elixir of life, he found means to keep death at a distance for ano- 
ther quarter of a century ; and that he died in 1415, at the age of 116. 
In this interval he made immense quantities of gold, though to all 
outward appearance he was as poor as a mouse. At an early period 
of his changed fortime, he had, like a worthy man, taken counsel 
with his old wife Petronella, as to the best use he could make of his 
wealth. Petronella replied, that as unfortunately they had no chil- 
dren, the best thing he could do, was to build hospitals and endow 
churches. Nicholas thought so too, especially when he began to find 



THE ALCHIMISTS. 117 

that his elixir could not keep oflF death, and that the grim foe was 
making rapid advances upon him. He richly endowed the church of 
St. Jacques de la Boucherie, near the Rue de Marivaux, where he had 
all his life resided, besides seven others in different parts of the king- 
dom. He also endowed fourteen hospitals, and built three chapels. 

The fame of his great wealth and his munificent benefactions soon 
spread over all the country, and he was visited, among others, by 
the celebrated doctors of that day, Jean Gerson, Jean de Courtecuisse, 
and Pierre d'Ailli. They found him in his huflble apartment, meanly 
clad, and eating porridge out of an earthen vessel ; and with regard 
to his secret, as impenetrable as all his predecessors in alchymy. His 
fame reached the ears of the king, Charles VI., who^nt M. de Cra- 
moisi, the Master of Requests, IjD find out whether Nicholas had indeed 
discovered the philosopher's ston#. But M. de Cramoisi took nothing 
by his visit ; all his attempts to sound the alchymist were unavailing, 
and he returned to his royal master no wiser than he came. It was 
in this year, 1414, that he lost his faithful Petronella. He did not 
long survive her, but died in the following year, and was buried with 
great pomp by the grateful priests of St. Jacques de la Bouch«rie. 

The great wealth of Nicholas Plamel is undoubted, as theTecords 
of several churches and hospitals in France can testify. That he 
practised alchymy is equally certain, as he left behind several works 
upon the subject. Those who knew him well, and who were incre- 
dulous about the philosopher's stone, give a satisfactory solution of 
the secret of his wealth. They say that he was always a miser and a 
usurer; that his journey to Spain was undertaken with very different 
motives from those pretended by the alehymists ; that, in fact, he went 
to collect debts due from Jews in that country to their brethren in Paris, 
and that he charged a commission of fully cent per cent in considera- 
tion of the difiiculty of collecting and the dangers of the road; that 
when he possessed thousands, he lived upon almost nothing ; and was 
the general money-lender, at enormous profits, to all the dissipated 
young men at the French court. 

Among the works written by Nicholas Flamel on the subject of 
alchymy is The Philosophic Summary^ a poem, reprinted in 1735, as an 
appendix to the third volume of the RovMin de la Rose, He also wrote 
three treatises upon natural philosophy, and an alchymic allegory, 
entitled Le D^r disir^. Specimens of his writing, and a fac-simile of 
the drawings in his book of Abraham, may be seen in Salmon's BiUio' 
th^que des Phihsophes Chimiques, The writer of the article Flamel in. 
the Biographie Universdle^jB, that for a hundred years after the death 
of Flamel, many of the adepts believed that he was still alive, and that 
he would live for upwards of six hundred years. The house he for- 



t; 



i 



118 EXTBAOSDINABT POFULAB ^ELUSIONS. 

y merly occupied, at the comv of the Koe de MarivauK, has been often 

^ t^en by cred^ous speculators, and ransacked from top to bottom, in 

the hopes that gold mighl be found. A report was current in Paris, 
not long previous to thfi^ear 1 816, that some lodgers had found in the 
cellars several jars filled with a dark-coloured ponderous matter. Upon 
the strength of the jumour, a l^^ever in aU the wondrous tales told 
of Nicholas Flamel bought the house, and nearij pulled it to pieces in 
^ransacking the walls a^ wainscoting for hiddm gold. He got nothing 
for his pains, howeiw wd had a heavy bill to pay to restore his 
dilatations. ' 

Gkoege Ripl:^. 

' While alcflymy was thus cultivattti on the continent of Europe, it 
was not neglec^d in the isLep of flCtain. Since the time of Roger 
Bacon, it had fascinated the imagination of many ardent men in Eng- 
land. In the year 1404 an act of parliament was passed dedarii]^ 
the making of gold and silver to be felony. Great alarm was Jelt 9ii 
that time lest an/ alchymist should succeed in his projects^ and pec- 
mps bring ruin upon the state by furnishing boundless wealth to 
some pesigning tyrant, who wihild make use of it to enslave his coun- 
try. This alarm appears to have soon subsided ; for, in the year 145d, 
^ Kiug Henry YI., by advice of his council and parliament, granted 
'-''four succeMsive patents and^ commissions to several knights, citizens 
• of London, ch^nists, monks, mass-priests, and others, to find Qut the 
philosopher's stone and elixir, '^ to the great benefit," said the patent, 
'^ of the realm, and the enabling of th^ king to pay all the debts of 
the^crown in real gold and fUver." Frii^j;^, in his Atirum EecfinoBiy 
observe8,''as a note to this passage, that the king's reason for grant- 
ing this patent to ecclesiastics was, that *^ they were such good artistfi 
in transubstantiating bread and wine in the eucharist, and therefore 
the more likely to be able to effect the transmutation of baser metals 
into better." No gold, of course, was ever made ; and next year the 
king, doubting very much of the practicability of the thing, took 
further advice, and appointed a commission of ten learned men and 
persons of eminence to judge and certify to him whether the transmu- 
tation of metals were a thing practicable or no. It does not appear 
whether the commission ever made any report upon the subject. 

In the succeeding reign an alch3rmist appeared who pretended to 
have discovered the secret. This was Geoi^e Ripley, the canon of 
Bridlington, in Yorkshire. He studied for twenty years in the uni- 
versities of Italy, and was a great favourite with Pope Innocent VIII., 
who made him one of his domestic chaplains, and master of the cere- 
monies in his household. Returning to England in 1477, he dedi- 



* 



t 



TH]S ALCHYIOSTflU 119 

cated to King Edward IV. his famous work, The Oomjxmnd of Al- 
chymy; <w, ike Twdm Gatee leading to the Dieofymry 0/ the PhUoafh 
pher's Stone. These gates h.6 described to l>e oalqiuation, solution, 
separation, conjunction, putrefaction, congelation, cibation^ sublima* 
tion, fermentation, exaltation, multiplication, and {nrojection; to 
which he might have added botheration, the mopt important process 
of alL He was very rich, and allowed it to be believed that he could 
naake gold out of iron. Fuller, in his Worthies of England, says that 
an English gentleman of good credit reported, that in his travel? 
abroad he saw a record in the i^nd of Malta which declare that 
Eipley gave yearly to the knights of that island, and of Ehodes, the 
enormous sum of one hundred thousand pounds sterling to enable 
them to carry on the war against the Turks. In his old age he be^ 
came an anchorite near Boston, and wrote twenty-five volumes upon 
the subject of alch3rmy, the most important of which is the Duodecim 
PortoMTwrn already mentioned. Before he died, he seems to have 
acknowledged that he had mis-spent his life in this vain study, and 
requested that aU men^ when they met with any of his books, would 
bum them^ or afford them no credit, as they had been written merely 
from his opinion, and not from proof; and that subsequent trial had 
made manifest to him that they were false and vain,'" 

Basil VAiiENTiNB. 

Germany also produced maiiy famous alchymists in the fifteenth 
century, the chief of whom are Basil Valentine, Bernard of Treves, 
and the Abbot Trithemius. Basil Valentine was bom at Mayence, 
and was made prior of St. Peter's, at Erfurt, about the year 1414. It 
was known, during his life, that he diligently sought the philosopher's 
stone, and that he had written some works upon the process of trans- 
mutation. They were thought for many years to be lost, but were, 
after his death, discovered enclosed in the stone-work of one of the 
pillars in the Abbey. They were twenty-one in number, and are fully 
set forth in the third volume of Lenglet's Hidory of the Hermetic 
Philosophy. The alchymists asserted that heaven itself conspired to 
bring to light these extraordinary works ; and that the pillar in which 
they were enclosed was miraculously shattered by a thunderbolt ; and 
iiiat as soon as the manuscripts were liberated, the pillar dosed up 
again of its own accord ! 

Bernard op Treves. 

The life of this philosopher is a remarkable instance of talent and 
perseverance misapplied. In the search of his chimera nothing could 

• Fuller's Worthies 0/ JSnyland, 



120 EXTRAOBDINAB.T FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

daunt him. Repeated disappointment never diminished his hopes ; 
and from the age of fourteen to that of eighty-five he was incessantly 
employed among the drugs and furnaces of his laboratory, wasting his 
life with the view of prolonging it, and reducing himself to beggary 
in the hopes of growing rich. 

He was bom at either Treves or Padua in the year 1406. His 
father is said by some to have been a physician in the latter city, and 
by others to have been Count of the Marches of Treves, and one of 
the most wealthy nobles of his country. At all events, whether noble 
or physician, he was a rich man, and left his son a magnificent estate. 
At the age of fourteen he first became enamoured of the science of 
alchymy, and read the Arabian authors in their own language. He 
himself has left a most interesting record of his labours and wan- 
derings, from which the following particulars are chiefly extracted. 
The first book which fell into his hands was that of the Arabian phi- 
losopher Rhazes, from the reading of which he imagined that he had 
discovered the means of augmenting gold a hundredfold. For four 
years he worked in his laboratory, with the book of Rhazes continually 
before him. At the end of that time, he found that he had spent no 
less than eight hundred crowns upon his experiment, and had got 
nothing but fire and smoke for his pains. He now began to lose con- 
fidence in Rhazes, and turned to the works of Geber. He studied 
him assiduously for two years ; and being young, rich, and credulous, 
was beset by all the alchymists of the town, who kindly assisted him 
in spending his money. He did not lose his faith in Geber, or patience 
with his hungry assistants, until he had lost two thousand crowns — 
a very considerable sum in those days. 

Among all the crowd of pretended men of science who surrounded 
him, there was but one as enthusiastic and as disinterested as him- 
self. With this man, who was a monk of the order of St. Francis, he 
contracted an intimate friendship, and spent nearly all his time. Some 
obscure treatises of Rupecissa and Sacrobosco having fallen into their 
hands, they were persuaded, from reading them, that highly rectified 
spirits of wine was the universal alkahest, or dissolvent, which would 
aid them greatly in the process of transmutation. They rectified the 
alcohol thirty times, till they made it so strong as to burst the vessels 
which contained it. After they had worked three years, and spent 
three hundred crowns in the liquor, they discovered that they were 
on the wrong track. They next tried alum and copperas ; but the 
great secret still escaped them. They afterwards imagined that there 
was a marvellous virtue in all excrement, especially the human, and 
actually employed more than two years in experimentalising upon 
it with mercury, salt, and molten lead ! Again the adepts flocked 



THE ALGHYMISTS. I2l 

around him from far and near to aid him with their counsels. He 
received them all hospitably, and divided his wealth among them so 
generously and unhesitatingly, that they gave him the name of the 
" Good Trevisan," by which he is still often mentioned in works that 
treat on alchymy. For twelve years he led this life, making experi- 
ments every day upon some new substance, and praying to God night 
and morning that he might discover the secret of transmutation. 

In this interval he lost his friend the monk, and was joined by a 
magistrate of the city of Treves, as ardent as himself in the search. 
His new acquaintance imagined that the ocean was the mother of 
gold, and that sea-salt would change lead or iron into the precious 
metals. Bernard resolved to try ; and, transporting his laboratory to 
a house on the shores of the Baltic, he worked upon salt for more than 
a year, melting it, sublimating it, crystallising it, and occasionally 
diinking it, for the sake of other experiments. Still the strange 
enthusiast was not wholly discouraged, and his failure in one trial 
only made him the more anxious to attempt another. 

He was now approaching the age of fifty, and had as yet seen 
nothing of the world. He therefore determined to travel through 
Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. Wherever he stopped he made 
inquiries whether there were any alch3rmists in the neighbourhood. 
He invariably sought them out ; and if they were poor, relieved, and 
if affluent, encouraged them. At Oiteaux he became acquainted with 
one Geoffrey Leuvier, a monk of that place, who persuaded him that 
the essence of egg-shells was a valuable ingredient. He tried, there- 
fore, what could be done ; and was only prevented from wasting a 
year or two on the experiment by the opinions of an attorney, at 
Berghem, in Flanders, who said that the great secret resided in vine- 
gar and copperas. He was not convinced of the absurdity of this 
idea until he had nearly poisoned himself. He resided in France for 
about five years, when, hearing accidentally that one Master Henry, 
confessor to the Emperor Frederic III., had discovered the philoso- 
pher's stone, he set out for Germany to pay him a visit. He had, as 
usual, surrounded himself with a set of hungry dependants, several 
of whom determined to accompany him. He had not heart to refuse 
them, and he arrived at Yienna with five of them. Bernard sent a 
polite invitation to the confessor, and gave him a sumptuous enter- 
tainment, at which were present nearly all the alchymists of Vienna. 
Master Henry frankly confessed that he had not discovered the philo- 
sopher's stone, but that he had all his life been employed in search- 
ing for it, and would so continue till he found it, or died. This was 
a man after Bernard's own heart, and they vowed with each other an 
.eternal friendship. It was resolved, at supper, that each alchymist 



222 EXTBAOBJOHABT POFQLAB DELUSIONS. 

present should ooutiibnie a certain «ain towards raising forty-two 
marks of gold, wMdi, in five days, it was oonfidently asserted bj 
Master Henry, would inorease, in his fumaoe, fivefold. Bernard, 
being the richest man, contributed the lion's share, ten marks of 
gold. Master Heniy five, and the others one or two a-pieee, except 
the dependants of Bernard, who were obliged to borrow their quota 
from their patron. The grand experiment was didy made ; the golden 
marks were put into a crucible, with a quantity of salt, cof^ras, 
aquafortis, egg -shells, mercury, lead, and dung. The alchymists 
watched this precious mess with intense interest, expecting that it 
would agglomante into one himp of pure gold. At the end of three 
weeks they gave up the trial, upon some excuse that the crucible was 
not strong enough, or that some necessary ingredient was wanting. 
Whether any thief had put his hands into the crudble is not known, 
but it is alleged that the gold found therein at the close of the experi-- 
ment was worth only sixte^i mark«, instead of the forty-two, which 
were put there at the beginning. 

Bernard, though he made no gold at Vienna, made away with 
a yery considerable quantity. He felt the loss so acutely, that he 
vowed to think no more of the philosopher's stone. This wise reso- 
Jlution he kept for two months ; but he was miserable. He was in 
the condition of the gambler, who cannot resist the fascination of the 
game while he has a coin remaining, but plays on with the hope of 
retrieving former losses, till hope forsakes him, and he can live no 
longer. He returned once more to his beloved crucibles, and resolved 
to prosecute his journey in search of a philosopher who had discovered 
the se<a:et, and would communicate it to so zealous and persevering 
an adept as himself. From Vienna he travelled to Rome, and from 
Bome to Madrid. Taking ship at Gibraltar, he proceeded to Messina; 
from Messina to Cyprus ; from Cyprus to Greece ; fr(»n Greeoe to 
ConstantiDople ; and thence into Egypt, Palestine, and Persia. These 
wanderings occupied him about eight years. From Persia he made 
his way back to Messina, and from thence into France. He afi^er- 
wards passed over into England, still in search of his great chimera ; 
and this occupied four years more of his li£e. He was now growing 
both old and poor ; for he was sixty-two years of age, and had been 
obliged to sell a great portion of his patrimony to provide for his 
expenses. His journey to Persia had cost upwards of thirte^i thou- 
sand crowns, about one-half of which had been fairly mdted in his 
all-devouring furnaces ; the other half was lavished upon the syco^ 
phants that he made it his business to search out in every town he 
stopped at. 

On his return to Tr^es he found, to his sorrow, that, if not an 



TKE ALGHTMI8TS. 123 

actual beggar^ he was not much better. His relatives looked upon 
him as a madman, and revised even to . see him. Too proud to ask 
for fyiVOWK from any one, and still confident that, some day or other, 
he would he the possessor of unbounded wealth, he made up his mind 
to retire to the island of Bhodes, where he might, in ^e mean time, 
hide his poverty from the ^es of the world. Here he might have 
lived unknown and happy ; but, as ill luck would have it, he fell in 
with a monk as mad as himself upon the subject of transmutation. 
They were, however, bodi so poor that they could not afford to buy 
the proper mat^ials to work with. They kept up each other'fi spirits 
by leamed diBcourses on the heimetic philosof^y, and in the reading 
of aU the great authors who had written upon the subject. Thus did 
^ey nurse their folly, as the good wife of Tarn O'Shanter did her 
wrath, ^' to keep it warm." Afto* Bernard had resided about a year 
in Rhodes, a merchant, who knew his family, advanced him the sum 
of eight thousand florins, upon the security of the last-remaining 
acres of his formerly large estate. Once more provided with funds, 
he recommenced his labours with all the zeal and enthusiasm of a 
young man. For three years he hardly stepped out of his laboratory : 
he ate there, and slept there, and did not even give himself time to 
wash his hands and dean his beard, so intense was his application. 
It is melandioly to think that such wonderful perseverance should 
have been wacrted in so vain a pursuit, and that energies so uncon«. 
querable should have had no worthi^ field to strive in. Even when 
he had famed away his last coin, and had nothing left in prospective 
to keep his old age from starvation, hope never forsook him. He still 
dreamed of ultimate success, and sat down a grey-headed man of 
eighty, to read over all the authors on the hermetic mysteries, from 
Qeber to his own day, lest he should have misunderstood some pro- 
cess, which it was not yet too late to recommence. The alchymists 
say, that he succeeded at kst, and discovered the eeiseet of transmu- 
toJtion in his eighty-second year. They add that he lived three years 
afterwards to enjoy his wealth. He Hved, it is true, to this great age, 
and made a valuable discovery — more valuable than gold or gems. 
He lefimed, as he himself informs us, just before he had attained his 
eighty 'third year, that the great seoret of philosophy was content* 
ment with our lot. Happy would it have been for him if he had dis- 
covered it soonw, and before he became decrepit, a beggar, and an exile ! 
fie died at Rhodes, in the year 1490, and all ihe alchymists of 
Europe sang elegies over him, and sounded his praise as the ** good 
Trevisan." He wrote several treatises upon his chimera, the chief 
of which are, the Book of Ch^utry^ the Verbtim dimisaum, and aa 
essay £k jUaiura Qvi. 



124 bxtra.oedinaby ropulas delusions. 

Tjrithemius. 

The name of this eminent man has become famous in the annals 
of alchjmy, although he did but little to gain so questionable an 
honour. He was bom in the year 1462, at the village of Trittheim, 
in the electorate of Treves. His father was John Heidenberg, a vine- 
grower, in easy circumstances, who, dying when his son was but seven 
years old, left him to the care of his mother. The latter married again 
very shortly afterwards, and neglected the poor boy, the oflFspring of 
her first marriage. At the age of fifteen he did not even know his 
letters, and was, besides, half starved, and otherwise ill-treated by his 
step-father ; but the love of knowledge germinated in the breast of 
the unfortunate youth, and he learned to read at the house of a neigh- 
bour. His father-in-law set him to work in the vineyards, and thus 
occupied all his days ; but the nights were his own. He often stole 
out unheeded, when all the household were fast asleep, poring over 
his studies in the fields, by the light of the moon ; and thus taught 
himself Latin and the rudiments of Greek. He was subjected to so 
much ill-usage at home, in consequence of this love of study, that he 
determined to leave it. Demanding the patrimony which his father 
had left him, he proceeded to Treves ; and assuming the name of 
Trithemius, from that of his native village of Trittheim, lived there 
for some months under the tuition of eminent masters, by whom he 
was prepared for the university. At the age of twenty, he took it 
into his head that he should like to see his mother once more ; and 
he set out on foot from the distant university for that purpose. On 
his arrival near Spannheim, late in the evening of a gloomy winter's 
day, it came on to snow so thickly, that he could not proceed onwards 
to the town. He therefore took refuge for the night in a neigh- 
bouring monastery ; but the storm continued several days, the roads 
became impassable, and the hospitable monks would not hear of his 
departure. He was so pleased with them and their manner of life, 
that he suddenly resolved to fix his abode among them, and renounce 
the world. They were no less pleased with him, and gladly received 
him as a brother. In the course of two years, although stiU so young, 
he was unanimously elected their abbot. The financial affairs of the 
establishment had been greatly neglected, the walls of the building 
were faUing into ruin, and every thing was in disorder. Trithemius, 
by his good management and regularity, introduced a reform in every 
branch of expenditure. The monastery was repaired, and a yearly 
surplus, instead of a deficiency, rewarded him for his pains. He did 
3iot like to see the monks idle, or occupied solely between prayers for 
their business, and chess for their relaxation. He, therefore, set them 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 125 

to work to copy the writings of eminent authors. They laboured so 
assiduously, that, in the course of a few years, their library, which 
■ had contained only about forty volumes, was enriched with several 
hundred valuable manuscripts, comprising many of the classical Latin 
authors, besides the works of the early fathers, and the principal his- 
torians and philosophers of more modem date. He retained the dig- 
nity of Abbot of Spannheim for twenty-one years, when the monks, 
tired of the severe discipline he maintained, revolted against him, and 
chose another abbot in his place. He was afterwards made Abbot of 
St. James, in Wurzburg, where he died in 1516. 

During his learned leisure at Spannheim, he wrote several works 
upon the occult sciences, the chief of which are an essay on geomancy, 
or divination by means of lines and circles on the ground ; another 
upon sorcery ; a third upon alchymy ; and a fourth upon the govern- 
ment of the world by its presiding angels, which was translated into 
English, and published by the famous William Lilly in 1647. 

It has been alleged by the believers in the possibility of transmu- 
tation, that the prosperity of the abbey of Spannheim, while under his 
superintendence, was owing more to the philosopher's stone than to 
wise economy. Trithemius, in common with many other learned men, 
has been accused of magic ; and a marvellous story is told of his hav- 
ing raised from the grave the form of Mary of Burgundy, at the inter- 
cession of her widowed husband, the Emperor Maximilian. His work 
on steganographia, or cabalistic writing, was denounced to the Count 
Palatine, Frederic II., as magical and devilish ; and it was by him 
taken from the shelves of his library and thrown into the fire. Tri- 
themius is said to be the first writer who makes mention of the won- 
derful story of the devil and Di;, Faustus, the truth of which he firmly 
believed. He also recounts the freaks of a spirit named Hvdekiny 
by whom he was at times tormented.* 

The Mab-echal de Ra-Ys. 

One of the greatest encouragers of alchymy in the fifteenth cen- 
tury was Gilles de Laval, Lord of Rays and a Marshal of France. His 
name and deeds are little known ; but in the annals of crime and folly, 
they might claim the highest and worst pre-eminence. Fiction has 
never invented any thing wilder or more horrible than his career; and 
were not the details but too well authenticated by legal and other 
documents which admit no doubt, the lover of romance might easily 
imagine they were drawn to please him from the stores of the prohfic 
brain, and not from the page of history. 

* Bioffraphie Univeraelh, 



126 EXTfiAOKDINABT POFULAS DELUSIONS. 

He was bom about the year 1420, of one of the noblest families of 
Brittany. His fathea* dying when Gilles had attained his twentieth 
year, he came into uncontrolled possession, at that early age, of a for- 
tune which the monarchs of France might have envied him. He was 
a near kinsman of the Montmorencys, the Roncys, and the Oraons ; 
possessed fifteen princely domains, and had an annual revenue of about 
three hundred thousand livres. Besides this, he was handsome, learned, 
and brave. He distinguished himself greatly m the wars of Charles 
VII., and was rewarded by that monarch with the dignity of a mar- 
shal of France. But he was extravagant and magnificent in his style 
of living, and accustomed from his earliest years to the gratification 
of every wish and passion ; and this, at last, led him from vice to vice 
and from crime to crime, till a blacker name than his is not to be 
found in any record of human iniquity. 

In his castle of Champtoc6 he lived with all the splendour of an 
eastern caliph. He kept up a troop of two hundred horsemen to 
accompany him wherever he Went ; and his excursions for the pur- 
poses of hawking and hunting were the wonder of all the country 
around, so magnificent were the caparisons of his steeds and the 
dresses of his retainers. Day and night his castle was open aU the 
year round to comers of every degree. He made it a rule to regale 
even the poorest beggar with wine and hippocrass. Every day an ox 
was roasted whole in his spacious kitchens, besides sheep, pigs, and 
poultry sufficient to feed five hundred persons. He was equally mag- 
nificent in his devotions. His private chapel at Ohamptoc6 was the 
most beautiful in France, and far surpassed any of those in the richly- 
endowed cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris, of Amiens, of Beauvais, 
or of Rouen. It was hung with cloth of gold and rich velvet. All 
the chandeliers were of pure gold curiously inlaid with silver. The 
great crucifix over the altar was* of solid silver, and the chalices and 
incense-burners were of pure gold. He had besides a fine organ, 
which he caused to be carried from one castle to another on the 
shoulders of six men, whenever he changed his residence* He kept 
up a choir of twenty-five young children of both sexes, who were 
instructed in singing by the first musicians of the day. The mast^ 
of his chapel he called a bishop, who had under him his deans, arch- 
deacons, and vicars, each receiving great salaries ; the bishop four 
hundred crowns a year, and the rest in proportion. 

He also maintained a whole troop of players, including ten dancing 
girls and as many ballad-singers, besides morris-dancers, jugglers, and 
mountebanks of every description. The theatre on which they per- 
formed was fitted up without any regard to expense, and they played 
mysteries or danced the morris-dance every evening for the amuse- 



im& AI.GHYMISTS. 127 

ment of himself imd household, and suoh strangers as were sharmg his 
prodigal hospitality. 

At the age of twenty-three he married Catherine, the wealthy 
heiress of the house of Touars, for whom he refurnished his oastle at 
an expense of a hundred thousand crowns. His marriage was the 
signal for new extravstgance, and he launched out more madly than 
ever he had done hefore ; sending for fine singers or celebrated 
dancers from foreign countries to amuse him and his spouse ; and 
instituting tilts and tournaments in his great court-yard almost every 
week for all the knights and nobles of the province of Brittany. The 
Ihike of Brittany's court was not half so splendid as that of the 
Mar^chal de Bays. His utter disregard for wealth was so well known, 
that he was made to pay three times its value for everything he pur- 
chased. His castle was filled with needy parasites and panderers to 
his pleasures, amongst whom he lavished rewards with an unsparing 
handr But the ordinary round of sensual gratification ceased at last 
to afford him delight ; he was observed to be more abstemious in the 
pleasures of the table, and to neglect the beauteous dancing girls 
who used formerly to occupy so much of his attention. He was some- 
times gloomy and reserved, and there was an unnatural wildness in 
his eye which gave indications of incipient madness. Still his dis- 
course was as reasonable as ever, his urbanity to the guests that 
flocked from far and near to Ghamptoc6 suffered no diminution ; and 
learned priests, when they conversed with him, thought to themselves 
that few of the nobles of France were so well informed as GiUes de 
Laval. But dark rumours spread gradually over the country; murder, 
and, if possible, still more atrocious deeds were hinted at ; and it was 
remarked that many young children of both sexes suddenly disap- 
peared, and were never afterwards heard of. One or. two had been 
traced to the castle of Ohamptoc^, and had never been seen to leave 
it; but no one dared to accuse openly so powerful a man as the 
Mar6chal de Rays. Whenever the subject of the lost children was 
mentioned in his presence, he manifested the Greatest astonishment 
at the mystery which involved their fate, ana indignation against 
those who might be guilty of kidnapping them. Still the world was 
not wholly deceived ; his name became as formidable to young child- 
ren as that of the devouring ogre in fairy tales, and they were taught 
to go miles round, rather than pass under the ^irrets of Champtoc6. 

In the course of a few years, the reckless extravagance of the 
marshal dndned him of all his funds, and he was obliged to put up 
some of his estates for sale. The IKike of Brittany entered into a 
treaty with him for the valuable seignory of Ingr^de ; but the heirs 
of Gilles implored the interference of Charles YXI. to stay the sale. 



128 EXTBAOBJ)INABy POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

Charles immediately issued an edict, which was confinned by the 
provincial Parliament of Brittany, forbidding him to alienate his 
paternal estates. Gilles had no alternative but to submit. He had 
nothing to support his extravagance but his allowance as a marshal 
of France, which did not cover the one-tenth of his expenses. A 
man of his habits and character could not retrench his wasteful ex- 
penditure, and live reasonably; he could not dismiss without a pang 
his horsemen, his jesters, his morris-dancers, his choristers, and his 
parasites, or confine his hospitality to those who really needed it. 
Notwithstanding his diminished resources, he resolved to live as he 
had lived before, and turn alchymist, that he might make gold out 
of iron, and be still the wealthiest and most magnificent among the 
nobles of Brittany. 

In pursuance of this determination, he sent to Paris, Italy, Ger- 
many, and Spain, inviting all the adepts in the science to visit him 
at Champtoc^. The messengers he despatched on this mission were 
two of his most needy and unprincipled dependants,. Gilles de Sille and 
Roger de Bricqueville. The latter, the obsequious panderer to his 
most secret and abominable pleasures, he had entrusted with the 
education of his motherless daughter, a child but five years of age, 
with permission that he might marry her at the proper time to any 
person he chose, or to himself if he liked it better. This man entered 
into the new plans of his master with great zeal, and introduced to 
him one Prelati, an alchymist of Padua, and a physician of Poitou, 
who was addicted to the same pursuits. 

1 The marshal caused a splendid laboratory to be fitted up for 
them, and the three commenced the search for the philosopher's 
stone. They were soon afterwards joined by another pretended phi- 
losopher, named Anthony Palermo, who aided in their operations for 
upwards of a year. They all fared sumptuously at the marshal's ex- 
pense, draining him of the ready money he possessed, and leading 
him on from day to day with the hope that they would succeed in the 
object of their search^ From time to time new aspirants from the 
remotest parts of Europe arrived at his castle, and for months he 
had upwards of twenty alchymists at work, trying to transmute cop- 
per into gold; and wasting the gold which was still his own in drugs 
and elixirs. 

But the Lord of Kays was not a man to abide patiently their 
lingering processes. Pleased with their comfortable quarters, they 
jogged on from day to day, and would have done so for years, had 
they been permitted. But he suddenly dismissed them all, with the 
exception of the Italian Prelati, and the physician of Poitou. These 
he retained to aid him to discover the secret of the philosopher's 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 129 

stone by a bolder method. The Poitousan had persuaded him that 
the devil was the great depository of that and all other secrets, and 
that he would raise him before Gilles, who might enter into any con- 
tract he pleased with him. Gilles expressed his readiness, and pro- 
mised to give the devil any thing but his soul, or do any deed that 
the arch-enemy might impose upon him. Attended solely by the 
physician, he proceeded at midnight to a wild -looking place in a 
neighbouring forest ; the physician drew a magic circle around them 
on the sward, and muttered for half an hour an invocation to the evil 
spirit to arise at his bidding, and disclose the secrets of alchymy. 
Gilles looked on with intense interest, and expected every moment 
to see the earth open, and deliver to his gaze the great enemy of 
mankind. At last the eyes of the physician became fixed, his hair 
stood on end, and he spoke, as if addressing the fiend. But Gilles 
saw nothing except his companion. At last the physician fell down 
on the sward as if insensible. Gilles looked calmly on to see the 
end. After a few minutes the physician arose, and asked him if he 
had not seen how angry the devil looked ? Gilles replied that he had 
seen nothing ; upon which his companion informed him that Beel- 
zebub had appeared in the form of a wild leopard, growled at him 
savagely, and said nothing; and that the reason why the marshal 
had neither seen nor heard him was, that he hesitated in his own mind 
as to devoting himself entirely to the service. Be Rays owned that 
he had indeed misgivings, and inquired what was to be done to make 
the devil speak out, and unfold his secret ? The physician replied, 
that some person must go to Spain and Africa to collect certain 
herbs which only grew in those countries, and offered to go himself, 
if De Rays would provide the necessary funds. De Rays at once con- 
sented ; and the physician set out on the following day with all the 
gold that his dupe could spare him. The marshal never saw his face 
again. 

But the eager Lord of Champtoc6 could not rest. Gold was neces- 
sary for his pleasures ; and unless by supernatural aid, he had no 
means of procuring any further supplies. The physician was hardly 
twenty leagues on his journey, before Gilles resolved to make another 
effort to force the devil to divulge the art of gold- making. ' He went 
out alone for that purpose ; but all his conjurations were of no effect. 
Beelzebub was obstinate, and would not appear. Determined to con- 
quer him if he could, he unbosomed himself to the Italian alchymist, 
Prelati. The latter offered to undertake the business, upon condition 
that De Rays did not interfere in the conjurations, and consented be- 
sides to furnish him with all the charms and talismans that might be 
required. He was further to open a vein in his arm, and sign with his 

9 



130 EXTSAOBDINABY POFTJLAB DELUSIONS. 

blood a contract that ^' he would work the devil's will in all thingB," 
and offer up to him a sacrifice of the heart, lungs, hands, eyes, and 
blood of a young child. The grasping monomaniac made no hesita- 
tion, but agreed at once to the die^gusting terms proposed to him. On 
the following night, Prelati went out alone, and after having been 
abs^it for three or four hours, returned to GiUes, who sat anxiously 
awaiting him. Prelati then informed him that he had seen the devil 
in the shape of a handsome youth of twenty. He further said, that 
the devil desired to be called Barron in all future invocations ; and 
had shewn him a great number of ingots of pure gold, buried under a 
lai^e oak in the neighbouring forest, all of which, and as many more 
as he desired, should become the property of the Marichal de Bays if 
he remained firm, and broke no condition of the contract. Prelati 
further shewed him a small casket of black dust, which would turn 
iron into gold ; but as the process was very troublesome, he advised 
that they should be contented with the ingots they found under the 
oak tree, and which would more than supply all the wants that the 
most extravagant imagination could desire. They were not, however, 
to attempt to look for the goM till a period of seven times seven ^eeks, 
or they would find nothing but slates and stones for their pains. 
GiUes e^cpressed the utnM>st chagrin and disappointment, and at once 
said that he could not wait for so long a period ; if the devil were not 
more, prompt Prelati might tell him that the Mar^chal de Kays was 
not to be trifled with, and would decline all further communication 
with him. Prelati at last persuaded him to wait seven times seven 
days. They then went at midnight with picks and shovels to dig up 
the ground under the oak, where they found nothing to reward them 
but a great quantity of gJates, marked with hieroglyphics. It was 
now Prelati's turn to be angry ; and he loudly swore that the devil 
was nothing but a Mar and a cheat. The marshal joined cordially in 
the opinion, but was easily persuaded by the cunning Italian to make 
one more trial. He promised at the same time that he would endea- 
vour on the following night to discover the reason why the devil had 
broken his word. He went out alone accordingly, and on his return 
informed his patron that he had seen Barron, who was exceedingly 
angry that they had not waited the proper time are they looked i<x 
the ingots. Barron had also said, that the Mar6chal de Bays could 
hardly expect any favours from him, at a time when he must know 
that he had been meditating a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to make, 
atonement for his sins. The Italian had doubtless surmised this from 
some incautious expression of his patron, for de Bays frankly confessed 
that there were times when, sick of the world and all its pomps and 
vanities, he thought of devoting himself to the service of God. 



TBE ALCHYMISTS. 1 31 

In this manner the Italian lured on from month to month his 
credulous and guilty patron, extracting from him all the valuables 
he possessed, and only waiting a favourable opportunity to decamp 
with his plunder. But the day of retribttUon was at hand for both. 
Young girls and boys continued to disappear in the most mysterious 
manner ; and the rumours ^.gainst the owner of OhamptocI grew so 
loud and distinct, that the Church was compelled to interfere. Repre- 
aentations were made by the Bishop of Nantes to the Duke of Brittany, 
that it would be a public scandal if the accusations against the Mar^-^ 
chal de Rays were not inquired into. He was arrested accordingly in 
his own castle, along with his accomplice Prelati, and thrown into a 
dungeon at Nantes to await his trial. 

The judges appointed to try him were the Bishop of Nantes Chan- 
cellor of Brittany, the Vicar of the Inquisition in France, and the 
celebrated Pierre THdpital, the President of the provincial Parlia- 
ment. The offences laid to his charge were, sorcery, sodomy, and 
murder. Gilles, on the first day of his trial, conducted himself with 
the utmost insolence. He braved the judges on the judgment-seat, 
calling them simoniacs and persons of impure life, and said he would 
rather be hanged by the neck like a dog without trial, than plead 
either guilty or not guilty before such contemptible miscreants. But 
his confidence forsook him as the trial proceeded, and he Was found 
guilty on the clearest evidence of all the crimes laid to his charge. It 
was proved that he took insane pleasure in stabbing the victims of his 
lust and in observing the quivering of their fleshy and the fading lustre 
of their eyes as they expired. The confession of Prelati first made the 
judges acquainted with this horrid madness, and Gilles himself con- 
firmed it before his death. Nearly a hundred children of the villagers 
around his two castles of Champtoc6 and Maohecou^, had been missed 
within three years, the greater part, if not all, of whom were immo- 
lated to the lust or the cupidity of this monster. He imagined that 
he thus made the devil his friend, and that his recompense would 
be the secret of the philosopher's stone. 

Qilles and Prelati were both condemned to be burned alive. At 
the place of execution they assumed the air of penitence and religion. 
Qilles tenderly embraced Prelati, saying, ** FaremUy fri&nd Francia! 
In this world we shall never meet again ; Imt let 9m place 6ur hopes in 
Ood; we shall see each other in Paradise** Out of consideration for 
his high rank and connexions, the punishment of the marshal was so 
far mitigated, that he was not burned aUve like Prelati. He was 
first strangled, and then thrown into the flames: his body, when 
half consumed, was given over to his relatives for interment, while 



132 BXTBAOBDINABY POPTJLAE DELUSIONS. 

that of the Italian was burned to ashes, and then scattered to the 

winds.* 

Jacques Ca:uii. 

This remarkable pretender to the secret of the philosopher's stone 
was contemporary with the last mentioned. He was a great person- 
age at the court of Charles VII., and in the events of his reign played 
a prominent part. From a very humble origin he rose to the highest 
honours of the state, and amassed enormous wealth by peculation 
and plunder of the country which he should have served. It was to 
hide his delinquencies in this respect, and to divert attention from the 
real source of his riches, that he boasted of having discovered the art 
of transmuting the inferior metalB into gold and silver. 

His father was a goldsmith in the city of Bourges; but so reduced 
in circumstances towards the latter years of his life, that he was un- 
able to pay the necessary fees to procure his son's admission into the 
guild. Young Jacques became, however, a workman in the Royal 
Mint of Bourges, in 1428, and behaved himself so well, and shewed 
so much knowledge of metallurgy, that he attained rapid promotion 
in that establishment. He had also the good fortune to make the 
acquaintance of the fair Agnes Sorel, by whom he was patronised 
and much esteemed. Jacques had now three things in his favour — 
ability, perseverance, and the countenance of the king's mistress. 
Many a man succeeds with but one of these to help him forward ; 
and it would have been strange indeed if Jacques Coeur, who had 
them all, should have languished in obscurity. While still a young 
man, he was made master of the mint, in which he had been a jour- 
neyman, and installed at the same time into the vacant ofl&ce of 
grand treasurer of the royal household. 

He possessed an extensive knowledge of finance, and turned it 
wonderfully to his own advantage, as soon as he became entrusted 
with extensive funds. He speculated in articles of the first necessity, 
and made himself popular by buying up grain, honey, wines, and 
other produce, till there was a scarcity, when he sold it again at 
enormous profit. Strong in the royal favour, he did not hesitate to 
oppress the poor by continual acts of forestalling and monopoly. As 
there is no enemy so bitter as the estranged friend, so of all the 
tyrants and tramplers upon the poor, there is none so fierce and reck- 
less as the upstart that sprang from their ranks. The ofi*ensive pride 
of Jacques Coeur to his inferiors was the theme of indignant reproach 

• For full details of this extraordinary trial, see Lobincau's Nouvelle Histoire de Bre- 
tagne, and D'Argentr6's work on the same subject. The character and life of Gilles de 
Rays 4re believed to have suggested the famous Blue Beard of the nursery tale. 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 133 

in his own city, and his cringing humility to those above him was as 
much an object of contempt to the aristocrats into whose society he 
thrust himself. But Jacques did not care for the former, and to the 
latter he was blind. He continued his career till he became the rich- 
est man in France, and so useful to the king that no important enter- 
prise was set on foot until he had been consulted. He was sent, in 
1446, on an embassy to Genoa, and in the following year to Pope 
Nicholas V. In both these missions he acquitted himself to the satis- 
faction of his sovereign, and was rewarded with a lucrative appoint- 
ment, in addition to those which he already held. 

In the year 1449, the English in Normandy, deprived of their 
great general, the Duke of Bedford, broke the truce with the French 
king, and took possession of a small town belonging to the Duke of 
Brittany. This was the signal for the recommencement of a war, 
in which the French regained possession of nearly the whole pro- 
vince. The money for this war was advanced, for the most part, 
by Jacques Coeur. When Rouen yielded to the French, and Charles 
made his triumphal entry into that city, accompanied by Dunois and 
his most famous generals, Jacques was among the most brilliant of his 
cortege. His chariot and horses vied with those of the king in the 
magnificence of their trappings ; and his enemies said of him that he 
publicly boasted that he alone had driven out the English, and that 
the valour of the troops would have been nothing without his gold. 

Dunois appears, also, to have been partly of the same opinion. 
Without disparaging the courage of the army, he acknowledged the 
utility of the able financier, by whose means they had been fed and 
paid, and constantly afforded him his powerful protection. 

When peace returned, Jacques again devoted himself to com- 
merce, and fitted up several galleys to trade with the Genoese. Ho 
also bought large estates in various parts of France ; the chief of 
which were the baronies of St. Fargeau, Meneton, Salone, Mau- 
branche, Meaune, St. Gerant de Vaux, and St. Aon de Boissy ; the 
earldoms or counties of La Palisse, Ghampignelle, Beaumont, and 
Villeneuve la Gendt, and the marquisate of Toucy. He also procured 
for his son, Jean Coeur, who had chosen the Church for his profes- 
sion, a post no less distinguished than that of Archbishop of Bourges. 

Every body said that so much wealth could not have been ho- 
nestly acquired; and both rich and poor longed for the day that 
should humble the pride of the man, whom the one class regarded 
as an upstart and the other as an oppressor. Jacques was somewhat 
alarmed at the rumours that were afloat respecting him, and of dark 
hints that he had debased the coin of the realm and forged the king's 
seal to an important document, by which he had defrauded the state 



1 34 EITRiOaDDIART POPUIAR BEIUSIONS. 



of verj conridet^le sums. To Bilence theaa niinunii, be invited many 
alchjinistB from foreign countries to reside with him, and circulated 
& ooonter rumour, that be had discovered the secret of the philo- 
sopher's atone. He also built a magnificent bouse in bis native city, 
over the entrance of which he caused to he sculptured the emblems 
of that science. Some time afterwards he built aiioth^, no less 
splendid, at Montpellier, which he inscribed in a similar manner. He 
also wrote a treatise upon the hermetic philosophy, in which he pre- 
tended that be knew the secret of transmuting metals. 

Sut all these attempts to disguise his numerous acts of peculation 
proved unavailing ; and he was arrested in 1452, and brought to trial 
on several charges. Upon one only, which the malice of his ensnies 



invented to ruin him, was he acquitted; which was, that be bad be^i 
accessory to the death, by poison, of bis kind patronesa, Agnes Sorel. 
Upon the others he was found guilty, and sentenced to be banished 
the kingdom, and to pay the enormous fine of four hundred thousand 
crowns. It was i«oved that be hod forged the king's seal ; that in his 
capacity of master of the mint of Bourges, he had debaaed, to a very 
great extent, the gold and silver coin of the realm ; and that be bad not 
hesitated to supply the Turks with arms and money to enable them 



THB ALCHTMIST8. 135 

to cany on war against their Christian neighbours, for which service 
he had received the most munificent recompenses. Charles Vll. was 
deeply grieved at his condemnation, and believed to the last that he 
was innocent. By his means the fine was reduced within a sum which 
Jacques Cosur could pay. After remaining for som£ time in prison, 
he was liberated, and left France with a large sum of money, part of 
which, it was alleged, was secretly paid him by Charles out of the pro- 
duce of his confiscated estates. He retired to Cyprus, where he died 
about 1460, the richest and most conspicuous personage of the island. 
The writers upon alchymy all claim Jacques Coeur as a member 
c^ their fraternity, and treat as false and libellous the more rational 
explanation of his wealth which the records of his trial a£P6rd. Pierre 
Borel, in his AntiquitSs Oauloises^ maintains the opinion that Jacques 
was an honest man, and that he made his gold out of lead and cop- 
per by means of the philosopher's stone. The alchymic adepts in 
general were of the same opinion ; but they found it difficult to per- 
suade even his contemporaries of the fact. Posterity is still less 
likely to believe it. 

IKPEEIOB, ADEPTS OF THB POURTEENTH AND FIPTEBNTH CBNTUMES. 

Many other pretenders to the secrets of the philosopher's stone 
appeared in every country in Europe, during tiie fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries. The possibility of transmutation was so gene- 
rally admitted, that every chemist was more or less an alchymist. 
Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Poland, France, and England pro- 
duced thousands of obscure adepts, who supported themselves, in the 
pursuit of their chimera, by the more profitable resources of astrology 
and divination. The monarchs of Europe were no less persuaded than 
their subjects of the possibility of discovering the philosopher's stone. 
Henry VI. and Edward IV. of England encouraged alchymy. In Ger- 
many, the Emperors Maximilian, Rodolph, and Frederic II. devoted 
much of their attention to it ; and every inferior potentate within 
their dominions imitated their example. It was a common practice 
in Germany, among the nobles and petty sovereigns, to invite an 
alchymist to take up his residence among them, that they might con- 
fine him in a dungeon till he made gold enough to pay millions for 
Ms ransom. Many poor wretches suffered perpetual imprisonment 
in consequence. A similar fate appears to have been intended by 
Edward II. for Raymond Ltdli, who, upon the pretence that he 
was thereby honoured, was accommodated with apartments in the 
Tower of London. He found out in time the trick that was about to 
be played him, and managed to make his escape ; some of his bio- 
graphers say, by jumping into the Thames, and swimming to a vessel 



136 £XTBAOBJ)INAS.Y POFULAJl DELUSIONS. 

that lay waiting to receive him. In the sixteenth centuiy, the same 
system was pursued, as will he shewn more fully in the life of Seton 
the Cosmopolite. 

The following is a catalogue of the chief authors upon alchymy, 
who flourished during this epoch, and whose lives and adventures are 
either unknown or are unworthy of more detailed notice. John Dows- 
ton, an Englishman, lived in 1315, and wrote two treatises on the 
philosopher's stone. Richard, or, as some call him, Robert, also an 
Englishman, lived in 1330, and wrote a work entitled Correctorivmi 
AlchymioBy which was much esteemed till the time of Paracelsus. In 
the same year Hved Peter of Lombardy, who wrote what he called a 
Complete Treatise upon the Hermetic Science, an abridgment of whidi 
was afterwards published by Lacini, a monk of Calabria. In 1330 the 
most famous alchymist of Paris was one Odomare, whose work. Be 
Fractica Magistri, was for a long time a hand-book among the bre- 
thren of the science. John de Rupecissa, a French monk of the order 
of St. Francis, flourished in 1357, and pretended to be a prophet as 
well as an alchymist. Some of his prophecies were so disagreeable to 
Pope Innocent VI., that the pontiff determined to put a stop to them, 
by locking up the prophet in the dungeons of the Vatican. It is ge- 
nerally believed that he died there, though there is no evidence of 
the fact. His chief works are, the Book of Light, the Five Essences, 
the Heaven of Philosophers, and his grand work, De Confectiane Lapidis, 
He was not thought a shining light among the adepts. Ortholani was 
another pretender, of whom nothing is known, but that he exercised 
the arts of alchymy and astrology at Paris, shortly before the time 
of Nicholas Flam el. His work on the practice of alchymy was written 
in that city in 1358. Isaac of Holland wrote, it is supposed, about 
this time ; and his son also devoted himself to the science. Nothing 
worth repeating is known of their Uves. Boerhaave speaks with com- 
mendation of many passages in their works, and Paracelsus esteemed 
them highly : the chief are, De Triplici Ordine Elia^iris et Lajddis 
Theoria, printed at Berne in 1608 ; and Mineralia Opera, sev, de Lapide 
Philosophico, printed at Middleburg in 1600. They also wrote eight 
other works upon the same subject. Koffstky, a Pole, wrote an alchy- 
mical treatise, entitled The Tincture of Minerals, about the year 1488. 
In this list of authors a royal name must not be forgotten. Charles 
VI. of France, one of the most credulous princes of the day, whose 
court absolutely swarmed with alchymists, conjurers, astrologers, and 
quacks of every description, made several attempts to discover the 
philosopher's stone, and thought he knew so much about it, that he 
determined to enlighten the world with a treatise ; it is called the 
B/(yyal Work of Charles VL of Fnmce, and the Treasure of Philosophy , 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 137 

It is said to be the original from which Nicholas Flamel took the idea 
of his Dedr (UdrS. Leiiglet du Fresnoy says it is very allegorical, 
and utteriy incomprehensible. For a more complete list of the her- 
metic philosophers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the 
reader is referred to the third volume of Lenglet's History, already 
quoted. 

PROGRESS OF THE INFATUATION DURING THE SIXTEENTH AND SEVEN- 
TEENTH CENTURIES. — PRESENT STATE OF THE SCIENCE. 

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the search for the 
philosopher's stone was continued by thousands of the enthusiastic 
and the credulous ; but a great change was introduced during this 
period. The eminent men who devoted themselves to the study to- 
tally changed its, aspect, and referred to the possession of their won- 
drous stone and elixir, not only the conversion of the base into the 
precious metals, but the solution of all the difficulties of other sciences. 
They pretended that by its means man would be brought into closer 
communion with his Maker ; that disease and sorrow would be ban- 
ished from the world ; and that " the millions of spiritual beings 
who walk the earth unseen" would be rendered visible, and become 
the friends, companions, and instructors of mankind. In the seven- 
teenth century more especially, these poetical and fantastic doctrines 
excited the notice of Europe ; and from Germany, where they had 
been first disseminated by Rosencreutz, spread into France and Eng- 
land, and ran away with the sound judgment of many clever but too 
enthusiastic searchers for the truth. Paracelsus, Dee, and many 
others of less note, were captivated by the grace and beauty of the 
new mythology, which was arising to adorn the literature of Europe. 
Most of the alchymists of the sixteenth century, although ignorant of 
the Rosicrucians as a sect, were, in some degree, tinctured with their 
fanciful tenets : but before we speak more fully of these poetical vision- 
aries, it will be necessary to resume the history of the hermetic folly, 
and trace the gradual change that stole over the dreams of the adepts. 
It will be seen that the infatuation increased rather than diminished 
as the world grew older. 

AUGURELLO. 

Among the alchymists who were bom in the fifteenth, and distin- 
guished themselves in the sixteenth century, the first in point of date 
is John Aurelio Augurello. He was bom at Rimini in 1441, and be- 
came professor of the belles lettres at Venice and Trevisa. He was 
early convinced of the truth of the hermetic science, and used to pray 



to Gi>d tJiat he might be happy enough to discover the phSIosopher'B 
atone. He was continiially Buironnded bj the paraphemftliBi of che- 
migtrr, and expended al! his wealth in the purchase of drogi and 
metala. He was also a poet, but of lese merit than pt«t«iuriaiifl. HIb 
Okn/iopeitL, in which he pretended to teach the art of making gold, 
he dedicated to Pope Iieo X., in the hope that the pontiff would 
reward him handsomelj for the compliment ; but the pope was too 
good a judge of poetry to be pleased with the worse than mediocrity 
of hie poem, and too good a philosopher to approve of the strange 
doctrines which it inculcatedj he was, therefore, for from gratified at 
the dedication. It is said, that when Augurello allied to him tor a 
reward, the pope, with great oeremony and much apparent kindness 
and cordiality, drew an empty purse from hia pocket, and presented 
it to the alchymtst, saying, that rince he was able to make gold, the 
most appropriate present that could be made him, was a purse to put 
it in. This aonrry reward was all that the poor alchymist ever got 
either for his poetry or his alehymy. He died in a state of extreme 
poTwty, in the eighty-third year of hie age. 

COENELICS AgRIPPA, 

This sjchymist hae left a distinguiBhed reputatitm. The mast 
QXtraordinaiy tales were told 
and beheved of his powers. 
He could turn iron into gold 
by his mere word. All the t^ 
riti of the air aul demons ot 
the earth were under his oom- 
mADd, and bound to obey him 
in everything. He oouldnisa 
from the dead the forms of the 
great men of other days, and 
make them a[^>ear, " in their 
habit as they lived," to the 
gaze of the curious who had 
courage enough to abide their 



He was bom at Cologne in 
1466, and began at an eaily age 
cit»iuiTi ..i.rri. **** study of chcmistry and phi- 

losophy. By some means or 
other, which have never been vei^ clearly explained, he managed to 
impresa his cmtemporaTies with a great idea of his wonderful attain- 



THB ALCHTHIST8. 139 

ments. At the early sge of twenty, so great was his reputation as an 
aloh3rmi6t, that the principal adepts of Paris wrote to Cologne, inviting 
him to settle in Franoe, and aid- them with his ezpenence in discover* 
ing the philosopher's stone. Honours poured upon him in thick succes- 
sion ; and he was highly esteemed by all the learned men of his time. 
Melancthon speaks of him with respect and commendation* Erasmus 
also bears testimony in his favour; and the general voice of his age 
procMmed him a light of literature and an ornament to philosophy. 
Some men, by dint of excessive egotism, manage to persuade their 
contemporwies that they are v^y great men indeed : they publish 
their acquirements so loudly in people's ears, and keep up their own 
praises so incessantly, that the world's applause is actually taken 
by storm. Such seems to have been the case with Agrippa'. He 
called himself a sublime theologian, an excellent jurisconsult, an 
able physician, a great philosopher, and a successful alchymist. The 
world at last took him at his word ; and thought that a man who 
talked so big, must have some merit to recommend him, — that it 
was, indeed, a great trumpet which sounded so obstreperous a 
blast. He was made secretary to the Emperor Maximilian, who con- 
ferred upon him the title of chevalier, and gave him the honorary 
command of a regiment. He afterwards became professor of Hebrew 
and the belles lettres at the University of Ddle, in France ; but quar- 
relling with the Franciscan monks upon some knotty points of di- 
vinity, he was obliged to quit the town. He took refuge in London, 
where he taught Hebrew and cast nativities, for about a year. From 
London he proceeded to Pavia, and gave lectures upon the writings, 
real or supposed, of Hermes Trismegistus ; and might have lived there 
in peace and honour, had he not again quarrelled with the clergy. 
By their means his position became so disagreeable that he was glad 
to accept an offer made him by the magistracy of Metz, to become 
their syndic and advocate-general. Here, again, his love of dispu- 
tation made him enemies : the theological wiseacres of that dty as- 
serted that St. Ann had three husbands, in which opinion they were 
confirmed by the popular belief of the day. Agrippa needlessly ran 
foul of this opinion, or prejudice as he called it, and thereby lost 
much of his influence. Another dispute, more creditable to his 
character, occurred soon after, and sank him for ever in the estima- 
tion of the Metzians. Humanely taking the part of a young girl who 
was accused of witchcraft, his enemies asserted that he was himself a 
sorcerer, and raised such a storm over his head, that he was forced to 
fly the city. After this he became physician to Louisa de Savoy, 
mother of King Francis I. This lady was curious to know the future, 
and required her physician to cast her nativity. Agrippa replied that 



140 EXTBAOEDIKABT P0PT7LAS DELUSIONS. 

he would not encourage such idle curiosity. The result was, he lost 
her confidence, and was forthwith dismissed. If it had heen through 
his belief in the worthlessness of astrology, that he had made his 
answer, we might admire his honest and fearless independence ; but 
when it is known that, at the veiy same time, he was in the constant 
habit of divination and fortune- telling, and that he was predicting 
splendid success, in all his undertakings, to the Constable of Bourbon, 
we can only wonder at his thus estranging a powerful friend through 
mere petulance and perversity. 

He was about this time invited, both by Henry VIII. of England, 
and Margaret of Austria, governess of the Low Countries, to fix his 
residence in their dominions. He chose the service of the latter, by 
whose influence he was made historiographer to the Emperor Charles 
V. Unfortunately for Agrippa, he never had stability enough to re- 
main long in one position, and offended his patrons by his restless- 
ness aud presumption. After the death of Margaret he was imprisoned 
at Brussels, on a charge of sorcery. He was released after a year ; and 
quitting the country, experienced many vicissitudes. He died in great 
poverty in 1534, aged forty-eight years. 

While in the service of Margaret of Austria, he resided principally 
at Louvain, in which city he wrote his famous work on the Vanity 
and Nothingness of Human Knmoledge. He also wrote to please his 
royal mistress, a treatise upon the Superiority of the Female SeXy 
which he dedicated to her in token of his gratitude for the favours 
she had heaped upon him. The reputation he left behind him in 
these provinces was any thing but favourable. A great number of 
the marvellous tales that are told of him relate to this period of his 
life. It was said, that the gold which he paid to the traders with 
whom he dealt, always looked remarkably bright, but invariably 
turned into pieces of slate and stone in the course of four-and-twenty 
hours. Of this spurious gold he was believed to have made large 
quantities by the aid of the devil, who, it would appear from this, 
had but a very superficial knowledge of alchymy, and much less than 
the Mar6chal de Bays gave him credit for. The Jesuit Delrio, in his 
book on magic and sorcery, relates a still more extraordinary story of 
him. One day, Agrippa left his house at Louvain, and intending 
to be absent for some time, gave the key of his study to his wife, 
with strict orders that no one should enter it during his absence. 
The lady herself, strange as it may appear, had no curiosity to pry 
into her husband's secrets, and never once thought of entering the 
forbidden room ; but a young student, who had been accommodated 
with an attic in the philosopher's house, burned with a fierce desire 
to examine the study ; hoping, perchance, that he might purloin 



THE ALCHTMIST8. 141 

some book or implement which would instruct him in the art of 
transmuting metals. The youth, being handsome, eloquent, and, 
above all, highly complimentary to the charms of the lady, she was 
persuaded without much difficulty to lend him the key, but gave him 
strict orders not to remove any thing. The student promised implicit 
obedience, and entered Agrippa's study. The first object that caught 
his attention was a large grimoire, or book of spells, which lay open 
on the philosopher's desk. He sat himself down immediately and 
began to read. At the first word he uttered, he fancied he heard a 
knock at the door. He listened, but all was silent. Thinking that 
his imagination had deceived him, he read on, when immediately a 
louder knock was heard, which so terrified him, that he started to 
his feet. He tried to say " Come in," but his tongue refused its 
office, and he could not articulate a sound. He fixed his eyes upon 
the door, which, slowly opening, disclosed a stranger of majestic 
form, but scowling features, who demanded sternly, why he was 
summoned ? " I did not summon you," said the trembling student. 
" You did !" said the stranger, advancing angrily ; " and the demons 
are not to be invoked in vain." The student could make no reply ; 
and the demon, enraged that one of the uninitiated should have sum- 
moned him out of mere presumption, seized him by the throat and 
strangled him. When Agrippa returned, a few days afterwards, he 
found his house beset with devils. Some of them were sitting on the 
chimney-pots, kicking up their legs in the air ; while others were 
playing at leapfrog on the very edge of the parapet. His study was 
so filled with them, that he found it difficult to make his way to his 
desk. When, at last, he had elbowed his way through them, he 
found his book open, and the student lying dead upon the floor. He 
saw immediately how the mischief had been done ; and dismissing 
all the inferior imps, asked the principal demon how he could have 
been so rash as to kill the young man. The demon replied, that he 
had been needlessly invoked by an insulting youth, and could do no 
less than kill him for his presumption. Agrippa reprimanded him 
severely, and ordered him immediately to reanimate the dead body, 
and walk about with it in the market-place for the whole of the 
afternoon. The demon did so ; the student revived, and putting his 
arm through that of his unearthly murderer, walked very lovingly 
with him in sight of all the people. At sunset, the body fell down 
again, cold and lifeless as before, and was carried by the crowd to the 
hospital, it being the general opinion that he had expired in a fit of 
apoplexy. His conductor immediately disappeared. When the body 
was examined, marks of strangulation were found on the neck, and 
prints of the long claws of the demon on various parts of it. These 



142 EXTBAOBDUCABI POFTJLAS DELUSIONS. 

appearances, together with a stoiy, which soon obtained currency, 
that the companion of the young man had vanished in a cloud of 
flame and smoke, opened peo{de*s eyes to the truth. The magistrates 
of Louvain instituted inqtiiries, and the result was, that Agrippa was 
obliged to quit the town. 

Other authors besides Delrio relate similar stories of this philo- 
sopher. The world in those days was always willing enough to be- 
lieve in tales of magic and sorcery ; and when, as in Agrippa's Case^ 
the alleged magician gave himself out for such, and claimed credit for 
the wonders he worked, it is not surprising that the age should have 
allowed his pretensions. It was dangerous boasting, which some- 
times led to the stake or the gallows, and therefore was thought to 
be not mthout foundation. Paulus Jovrus, in his Eulogia Doctorum 
Virorum, says, that the devU, in the shape of a large black dog, at-^ 
tended Agrippa wherever he went. Thomas Nash, in his AdveTUures 
of Jack Wilton, relates, that, at the request of Lord Surrey, Erasmus, 
and some other learned men, Agrippa called up from the grave many 
of the great philosophers of antiquity ; among others, Tully, whom 
he caused to re-deliver his celebrated oration for Roscius. He alsd 
shewed Lord Surrey, when in Germany, an exact resemblance in s 
glass of his mistress, the fair Geraldine. She was represented on a 
couch weeping for the absence of her lover. Lord Surrey made a 
note of the exact time at which he saw this vision, and ascertained 
afterwards that his mistress was actually so employed at the verf 
minute. To Thomas Lord Cromwell, Agrippa represented King 
Henry VIII. hunting in Windsor Park, with the principal lords of 
his court ; and to please the Emperor Charles Y. he summoned 
Eing I>avid and King Solomon from the tomb. 

Kaud6, in his ^^Apolopyfor the great Men who have heenfalsdy sua- 
j»ected of Magic, * takes a great deal of pains to clear Agrippa from the 
imputations cast upon him by BeMo, Paulus Jovius, and other such 
ignorant and prejudiced scribblers. Such stories demanded recita- 
tion in the days of Naud6, but they may now be safely left to decay 
in their own absurdity. That they should have attached, however, 
to the memory of a man who claimed the power of making ixon obey 
him when he told it to become gold, and who wrote such a work as 
that upon magiCy which goes by his name, is not at all suipising. 

Pabacelsus. 

This philosopher, called by Naud4 ^' the zenith and rising sun of 
all the alchymists," was bom at Einsiedeln, near Zurich, in the year 
14d3. His true name was Hohenheim ; to which, as he himself in- 
forms us, were prefixed the baptismal names of Aureolus Theophras- 



IHE ALCHYHIST8. 148 

tua Bombtietes PartKeUus. The l«8t of these he chose for his com- 
mon deeignatioD while he was jet a boj ; and rendered it, before he 
died, one of the moat famous in the annals of his time. Hia father, 
who was a phjsician, educated his son for the same pursuit. The 
latter was an apt scholar, and made great progress. Bj chance the 
work of Isaac Hullandus fell into his hands, and from that time he 
became smitten with the mania of the philosopher's attme. All his 
thoughts henceforth were devoted to metalln^j; and he travelled 
into Sweden that he might visit the 
mines of that country, and examine the 
ores while they yet lay in the bowds 
of the earth. He also visited Tiithemius 
at the monastery of Spannbeim, and 
obtained instractiona from him in the 
science of alchymy. Continuing hia tra- 
vels, he proceeded through Pmaaia and 
Austria into Turkey, Egypt, and Tai^ 
lary, and thence returning to Constan- 
tinople, learned, as he boasted, the art 
of transmutation, and beoame poasesaed 
of the dixir nibe. He then established 
himself aa a physician in his native >»iitii.«ni. 

Switzerland at Zurich, and commenced writing works upon alchymy 
and medicine, which immediately fixed the attention of Europe. 
Their great obscurity waa no impediment to their &me ; for the less 
the author was understood, the more the demonologiata, fiumtics, and 
philosopher's-stone huntera seemed to appreciate ^'^'" , His &me as 
a physician kept pace with that which he enjoyed aa an alchymist, 
owing to his having effected some tu^py cures by means of mereuiy 
and opium, — drugs unceremouionsly condemned by his professional 
brethren. In the year 1526, he was choaen professor of physics and 
uaturd philosophy in the Uuivwsity of Baale, wh»« his lectures at- 
tracted va^ numbers of students. He denounced the writings of all 
former physicians as tending to mislead ; and publicly biunod the 
works o^ Qalen and Avicenna, as quacks and impostors. He ex- 
chumed, in presence of the admiring and half-bewildered, crowd, 
who assembled to witness the ceremony, that there was more know- 
ledge in hia shoe-strings than in the writings of these phyuciana.. 
Continuing in the same strain, he said, all the Universities in the. 
world were full of ignorant quacks ; bat that he, Paracelsus, over- 
flowed with wisdom. " You wiU all follow my new ayatem," stud 
be, with furious gesticulations, "Aricenna, Qalen, Bhasds, Montag- 
nana, Mem£,— you wiU all follow me, je pcofesson of Paris, Uont- 



^^^ EXTBAOEDINAKY POPTTLAB. DELUSIONS. 

pellier, Germany, Cologne, and Vienna ! and all ye that dwell on the 
Rhine and the Danube,— ye that inhabit the isles of the sea ; and ye 
also, Italians, Dalmatians, Athenians, Arabians, Jews, — ye will all 
follow my doctrines, for I am the monarch of medicine !" 

But he did not long enjoy the esteem of the good citizens of Basle. 
It is said that he indulged in wine so freely, as not unfrequently to 
be seen in the streets in a state of intoxication. This was ruinous 
for a physician, and his good fame decreased rapidly. His ill fame 
increased in still greater proportion, especially when he assumed the 
airs of a sorcerer. He boasted of the legions of spirits at his com- 
mand ; and of one especially, which he kept imprisoned in the hilt 
of his sword. Wetterus, who lived twenty-seven months in his ser- 
vice, relates that he often threatened to invoke a whole army of de- 
mons, and shew him the great authority which he could exercise over 
them. He let it be believed that the spirit in his sword had custody 
of the elixir of life, by means of which he could make any one live to 
be as old as the antediluvians. He also boasted that he had a spirit 
at his command, called " Azoth," whom he kept imprisoned in a 
jewel ; and in many of the old portraits he is represented with a 
jewel, inscribed with the word "Azoth, in his hand." 

If a sober prophet has little honour in his own country, a drunken 
one has still less. Paracelsus found it at last convenient to quit Basle 
and establish himself at Strasbourg. The immediate cause of this 
change of residence was as follows. A citizen lay at the point of 
death, and was given over by all the physicians of the town. As a 
last resource Paracelsus was called in, to whom the sick man promised 
a magnificent recompense, if, by his means, he were cured. Paracel- 
sus gave him two smaU pills, which the man took, and rapidly reco- 
vered. When he was quite well, Paracelsus sent for his fee ; but the 
citizen had no great opinion of the value of a cure which had been so 
speedily effected. He had no notion of paying a handful of gold for 
two pills, although they had saved his Hfe, and he refused to pay more 
than the usual fee for a single visit. Paracelsus brought an action 
agamst him, and lost it. This result so exasperated him, that he left 
Basle in high dudgeon. He resumed his wandering life, and j;raveUed 
in Germany and Hungary, supporting himself as he went on the cre- 
dulity and infatuation of all classes of society. He cast nativities- 
told fortunes— aided those who had money to throw away upon the 
experiment, to find the philosopher's stone-prescribed remedies for 
cows and pigs, and aided in the recovery of stolen goods. After re- 
siding successively at Nuremburg, Augsburg, Vienna, and Mindel- 
heim, he retired in the year 1541 to Saltzbourg, and died in a state 
of abject poverty in the hospital of that town. 



THE AXCHYMISTS. 145 

If this strange charlatan found hundreds of admirers during his 
life, he found thousands after his death. A sect of Paracelsists sprang 
up in France and Germany, to perpetuate the extravagant doctrines 
of their founder upon all the sciences, and upon alchymy in particu- 
lar. The chief leaders were Bodenstein and Domeus. The following 
is a summary of his doctrine, founded upon the supposed existence of 
the philosopher's stone ; it is worth preserving from its very absurdity, 
and is altogether unparalleled in the history of philosophy. First of 
all, he maintained that the contemplation of the perfection of the 
Deity sufficed to procure all wisdom and knowledge ; that the Bible 
was the key to the theory of all diseases, and that it was necessary to 
search into the Apocalypse to know the signification of magic medi- 
cine. The man who blindly obeyed the will of God, and who suc- 
ceeded in identifying himself with the celestial intelligences, possessed 
the philosopher's stone — he could cure all diseases, and prolong life 
to as many centuries as he pleased ; it being by the very same means 
that Adam and the antediluvian patriarchs prolonged theirs. Life 
was an emanation from the stars — the sun governed the heart, and 
the moon the brain. Jupiter governed the liver, Saturn the gall, 
Mercury the lungs. Mars the bile, and Venus the loins. In the sto- 
mach of every human being there dwelt a demon, or intelligence, 
that was a sort of alchymist in his way, and mixed, in their due pro- 
portions, in his crucible, the various aliments that were sent into that 
grand laboratory, the belly.* He was proud of the title of magician, 
and boasted that he kept up a regular correspondence with Galen from 
hell ; and that he often summoned Avicenna from the same regions 
to dispute with him on the false notions he had promulgated respect- 
ing alchymy, and especially regarding potable gold and the elixir of 
life. He imagined that gold could cure ossification of the heart, and, 
in fact, all diseases, if it were gold which had been transmuted from 
an inferior metal by means of the philosopher's stone, and if it were 
applied under certain conjunctions of the planets. The mere list of 
the works in which he advances these frantic imaginings, which he 
called a doctrine, would occupy several pages. 

George Agricola. 

This alchymist was bom in the province of Misnia, in 1494. His 
real name was Bauer^ meaning a husbandman, which, in accordance 
with the common fashion of his age, he latinised into Agricola; 
From his early youth, he delighted in the visions of the hermetic 
science. Ere he was sixteen, he longed for the great elixir which was 
to make him live for seven hundred years, and for the stone which 

• See the article "Paracelsus," by the learned Renaudin, in the Biograpkie UniverseUe. 

10 



146 EXTBAOBDIKABY FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

was to procure him wealth to cheer him in his multiplicity of days. 
He published a small treatise upon the subject at Cologne, in 1531, 
which obtained him the patronage of the celebrated Maurice duke 
of Saxony. After practising for some years as a physician at Joa« 
chimsthal, in Bohemia, he was employed by Maurice as superinten- 
dent of the silver mines of Chemnitz. He led a happy life among the 
miners, making various experiments in alchymy while deep in the 
bowels of the earth. He acquired a great knowledge of metals, and 
gradually got rid of his extravagant notions about the philosopher's 
stone. The miners had no faith in alchymy; and they converted him 
to their way of thinking, not only in that but in other respects. From 
their legends, he became firmly conviuced that the bowels of the earth 
were inhabited by good and evil spirits, and that firedamp and other 
explosions sprang from no other causes than the mischievous pro- 
pensities of the latter. He died in the year 1555, leaving behind him 
the reputation of a very able and intelligent man. 

Denis Zachaiee. 

Autobiography, written by a wise man who was once a fool, is not 
only the most instructive, but the most delightful of reading. Denis 
Zachaire, an alchymist of the sixteenth centuiy, has performed this 
task, and left a record of his folly and infatuation in pursuit of the 
philosopher's stone, which well repays perusal. He was bom in the 
year 1510, of an ancient family in Guienne, and was early sent to 
the university of Bordeaux, under the care of a tutor to direct his 
studies. Unfortunately his tutor was a searcher for the grand elixir, 
and soon rendered his pupil as mad as himself upon the subject. 
With this introduction, we will allow Denis Zachaire to speak for 
himself, and continue his narrative in his own words : " I received 
from home," says he, ** the sum of two hundred crowns for the ex- 
penses of myself and master ; but before the end of the year, all our 
money went away in the smoke of our furnaces. My master, at the 
same time, died of a fever, brought on by the parching heat of our 
laboratory, from which he seldom or never stirred, and which was 
scarcely less hot than the arsenal of Venice. His death was the more 
unfortunate for me, as my parents took the opportunity of reducing 
my allowance, and sending me only sufficient for my board and 
lodging, instead of the sum I required to continue my operations in 
alchymy. 

" To meet this difficulty and get out of leading-strings, I returned 
home at the age of twenty-five, and mortgaged part of my property 
for four hundred crowns. This sum was necessary to perform an ope- 
ration of the science, which had been communicated to me by an 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 1 \7 

Italian at Toulouse, and who, as he said, had proved its efficacy. I 
retained this man in mj service, that we might see the end of the 
experiment. I then, by means of strong distillations, tried to calci- 
nate gold and silver ; but all my labour was in vain. The weight of 
the gold I drew out of my furnace was diminished by one-half since 
I put it in, and my four hundred crowns were very soon reduced to 
two hundred and thirty. I gave twenty of these to my Italian, in 
order that he might travel to Milan, where the author of the receipt 
resided, and ask him the explanation of some passages which we 
thought obscure. I remained at Toulouse all the winter, in the hope 
of his return ; but I might have remained there till this day if I had 
waited for him, for I never saw his face again. 

" In the succeeding summer there was a great plague, which forced 
me to quit the town. I did not, however, lose sight of my work. I 
went to Cahors, where I remained six months, and made the acquaint- 
ance of an old man, who was commonly known to the people as ' the 
Philosopher ;' a name which, in country places, is often bestowed 
upon people whose only merit is, that they are less ignorant than 
their neighbours. I shewed him my collection of alchymical receipts, 
and asked his opinion upon them. He picked out ten or twelve of 
them, merely saying that they were better than the others. When 
the plague ceased, I returned to Toulouse, and recommenced my ex- 
periments in search of the stone. I worked to such effect that my 
four hundred crowns were reduced to one hundred and seventy. 

" That I might continue my work on a safer method, I made ac- 
quaintance, in 1537, with a certain abb^ who resided in the neigh- 
bourhood. He was smitten with the same mania as myself, and told 
me that one of his friends, who had followed to Rome in the retinue 
of the Cardinal d'Armagnac, had sent him from that city a new receipt 
which could not fail to transmute iron and copper, but which would 
cost two hundred crowns. I provided half this money, and the abb6 
the rest ; and we began to operate at our joint expense. As we re- 
quired spirits of wine for our experiment, I bought a tun of excellent 
vin de GaiUac. I extracted the spirit, and rectified it several times. 
We took a quantity of this, into which we put four marks of silver 
and one of gold that had been undergoing the process of calcination 
for a month. We put this mixture cleverly into a sort of horn-shaped 
vessel, with another to serve as a retort ; and placed the whole appa- 
ratus upon our furnace to produce congelation. This experiment 
lasted a year ; but, not to remain idle, we amused ourselves with 
many other less important operations. We drew quite as much profit 
fi*om these as from pur great work. 

The whole of the year 1637 passed over without producing ajiy 



(( 



148 EXTRAOKDINARY POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

change whatever ; in fact we might have waited till doomsday for the 
congelation of our spirits of wine. However, we made a projection 
with it upon some heated quicksilver ; but all was in vain. Judge 
of our chagrin, especially of that of the abbe, who had already boasted 
to all the monks of his monastery, that they had only to bring the 
large pump which stood in a comer of the cloister, and he would con- 
vert it into gold : but this ill luck did not prevent us from persever- 
ing. I once more mortgaged my paternal lands for four hundred 
crowns, the whole of which I determined to devote to a renewal of 
my search for the great secret. The abb6 contributed the same sum ; 
and with these eight hundred crowns I proceeded to Paris, a city 
more abounding with alchymists than any other in the world, resolved 
never to leave it until I had either found the philosopher's stone or 
spent all my money. This journey gave the greatest offence to all my 
relations and friends, who, imagining that I was fitted to be a great 
lawyer, were anxious that I should establish myself in that profes- 
sion. For the sake of quietness, I pretended, at last, that such was 
my object. 

" After travelling for fifteen days, I arrived in Paris on the 9th 
of January 1539. I remained for a month almost unknown ; but I 
had no sooner begun to frequent the amateurs of the science, and 
visited the shops of the fumace*makers, than I had the acquaintance 
of more than a hundred operative alchymists, each of whom had a 
different theory and a different mode of working. Some of them pre- 
ferred cementation ; others sought the universal alkahest or dissol- 
vent ; and some of them boasted the great eflScacy of the essence of 
emery. Some of them endeavoured to extract mercury from other 
metals, to fix it afterwards ; and, in order that each of us should be 
thoroughly acquainted with the proceedings of the others, we agreed 
to meet somewhere every night and report progress. We met some- 
times at the house of one, and sometimes in the garret of another ; 
not only on week days, but on Sundays and the great festivals of the 
Church. ' Ah !' one used to say, ^ if I had the means of recommenc- 
ing this experiment, I should do something.' ' Yes,' said another, 
* if my crucible had not cracked, I should have succeeded before now ;' 
while a third exclaimed, with a sigh, ' If I had but had a round cop- 
per vessel of sufl&cient strength, I would have fixed mercury with 
silver.' There was not one among them who had not some excuse 
for his failure ; but I was deaf to all their speeches. I did not want 
to part with my money to any of them, remembering how often I had 
been the dupe of such promises. 

** A Greek at last presented himself ; and with him I worked a 
long time uselessly upon nails made of cinnabar or vermilion. I was 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 140 

also acquainted with a foreign gentleman newly arrived in Paris, and 
often accompanied him to the shops of the goldsmiths to sell pieces 
of gold and silver, the produce, as he said, of his experiments. I 
^9tuck closely to him for a long time, in the hope that he would im- 
part his secret. He refused for a long time, but acceded at last on 
my earnest entreaty, and I found that it was nothing more than an 
ingenious trick. I did not fail to inform my friend the abb^, whom 
I had left at Toulouse, of all my adventures ; and sent him, among 
other matters, a relation of the trick by which this gentleman pre- 
tended to turn lead into gold. The abb6 still imagined that I should 
succeed at last, and advised me to remain another year in Paris, where 
I had made so good a beginning. I remained there three years ; but, 
notwithstanding all my efforts, I had no more success than I had had 
elsewhere. 

** I had just got to the end of my money, when I received a letter 
from the abb6, teUing me to leave every thing, and join him immedi- 
ately at Toulouse. I went accordingly, and found that he had received 
letters from the king of Navarre (grandfather of Henry IV.). This 
prince was a great lover of philosophy, full of curiosity, and had 
written to the abbe that I should visit him at Pau ; and that he 
would give me three or four thousand crowns if I would communi- 
cate the secret I had learned from the foreign gentleman. The abbe's 
ears were so tickled with the four thousand crowns, that he let me 
have no peace night or day until he had fairly seen me on the road to 
Pau. I arrived at that place in the month of May 1642. I worked 
"away, and succeeded, according to the receipt I had obtained. When 
I had finished to the satisfaction of the king, he gave me the reward 
that I expected. Although he was willing enough to do me further 
service, he was dissuaded from it by the lords of his court ; even by 
many of those who had been most anxious that I should come. He 
sent me then about my business, with many thanks ; saying, that if 
there was any thing in his kingdom which he could give me — such 
as the produce of confiscations or the like — he should be most happy. 
I thought I might stay long enough for these prospective confisca- 
tions, and never get them at last ; and I therefore determined to go 
back to my friend the abb6. 

** I learned that, on the road between Pau and Toulouse, there 
resided a monk who was very skilful in all matters of natural philo- 
sophy. On my return, I paid him a visit. He pitied me very much, 
and advised me, with much warmth and kindness of expression, not 
to amuse myself any longer with such experiments as these, which 
were all false and sophistical ; but that I should read the good books 
of the old philosophers, where I might not only find the true matter 



150 XXTBA0KD1NAB.T POFULAS DELUSIONS. 

of the science of alchymj, but learn also the exact order of operations 
which ought to be followed. I very much approved of this wise ad- 
vice ; but before I acted upon it, I went back to my abb6 of Toulouse, 
to give him an account of the eight hundred crowns which we had 
had in common, and, at the same time, share with him such reward 
as I had received from the king of Navarre. If he was little satisfied 
with the relation of my adventures since our first separation, he ap- 
peared stUl less satisfied when I told him I had formed a resolution 
to renounce the search for the philosopher's stone. The reason was 
that he thought me a good artist. Of our eight hundred crowns, 
there remained but one hundred and seventy-six. When I quitted 
the abb6, I went to my own house with the intention of remaining 
there, till I had read all the old philosophers, and of then proceeding 
to Paris. 

*^ I arrived in Paris on the day after All Saints, of the year 1546, 
and devoted another year to the assiduous study of great authors. 
Among others, the Turha PhUosophorwm of the Good Trevisan, the 
Jtemonstrance of Nature to the Wandering Alchymisty by Jean de 
Meung, and several others of the best books ; but, as I had no right 
principles, I did not well know what course to follow. 

*' At last I left my solitude, not to see my former acquaintances, 
the adepts and operators, but to frequent the society of true philoso- 
phers. Among them I fell into still greater uncertainties ; being, in 
fact, completely bewildered by the variety of operations which they 
shewed me. Spurred on, nevertheless, by a sort of frenzy or inspira- 
tion, I threw myself into the works of Raymond LuUi and of Arnold 
de Yilleneuve. The reading of these, and the reflections I made upon 
them, occupied me for another year, when I finally determined on the 
course I should adopt. I was obliged to wait, however, until I had 
mortgaged another very considerable portion of my patrimony. This 
business was not settled until the beginning of Lent, 1549, when I 
commenced my operations. I laid in a stock of all that was neces- 
sary, and began to work the day after Easter. It was not, however, 
without some disquietude and opposition from my friends who came 
about me ; one asking me what I was going to do, and whether I had 
not already spent money enough upon such follies? Another assured 
me that, if I bought so much charcoal, I should strengthen the sus- 
picion already existing, that I was a coiner of base money. Another 
advised me to purchase some place in the magistracy, as I was already 
a Doctor of Laws. My relations spoke in terms still more annoying 
to me, and even threatened that, if I continued to make such a fool 
of myself, they would send a posse of police-officers into my house, 
and break all my furnaces and crucibles into atoms. I was wearied 



THE ALCHYHISTS. 151 

almost to death by this continued persecution ; but I found comfort 
in my work and in the progress of my experiment, to which I was very 
attentive, and which went on bravely from day to day. About this 
time, there was a dreadful plague in Paris, which interrupted all in- 
tercourse between man and man, and left me as much to myself as I 
could desire. I soon had the satisfaction to remark the progress and 
succession of the three colours which, according to the philosophers, 
always prognosticate the approaching perfection of the work. I ob- 
served them distinctly, one after the other; and next year, being 
Easter Sunday, 1550, I made the great trial. Some common quick- 
silver, which I put into a small crucible on the fire, was, in less than 
an hour, converted into very good gold. You may judge how great 
was my joy, but I took care not to boast of it. I returned thanks to 
God for the favour he had shewn me, and prayed that I might only be 
permitted to make such use of it as would redound to his glory. 

" On the following day, I went towards Toulouse to find the abb6, 
in accordance with a mutual promise, that we should communicate 
our discoveries to each other. On my way, I called in to see the sage 
monk who had assisted me with his counsels ; but I had the sorrow 
to learn that they were both dead. After this, I would not return to 
my own home, but retired to another place, to await one of my rela- 
tions whom I had left in charge of my estate. I gave him orders to 
sell all that belonged to me, as well movable as immovable — ^to pay 
my debts with the proceeds, and divide all the rest among those in 
any way related to me who might stand in need of it, in order that 
they might enjoy some share of the good fortune which had befallen 
me. There was a great deal of talk in the neighbourhood about my 
precipitate retreat ; the wisest of my acquaintance imagining that, 
broken down and ruined by my mad expenses, I sold my little re- 
maining property, that I might go and hide my shame in distant 
countries. 

" My relative already spoken of rejoined me on the 1st of July, 
after having performed aU the business I had entrusted him with. We 
took our departure together, to seek a land of liberty. We first re- 
tired to Lausanne, in Switzerland, when, after remaining there for 
some time, we resolved to pass the remainder of our days in some of 
the most celebrated cities of Germany, living quietly and without 
splendour." 

Thus ends the story of Denis Zachaire, as written by himself. He 
has not been so candid at its conclusion as at its commencement, and 
has left the world in doubt as to his real motives for pretending that 
he had discovered the philosopher's stone. It seems probable that 
the sentence he puts into the mouths of his wisest acquaintances was 



152 EXIRAOKMSiRT 

the tmereaapn of hb retreat jthathe was, infect, reduced to poyerty, 
and hid hia Bhame in foreign countries. Nothing further is known of 
his life, and his real name has never yet been diecovered. He wrote 
a work on alchymj, entitled The true JVatwrtd PkUotophy of MetaU. 

Dtt. Dee asd Edwabd Kellt. 
John Dee and Bdward Kelly claim to be mentioned ti^ether, 
having been so long associated in the eame pursuitB, and undergone 
80 many rtrange viciasitudeB in each other's society. Dee was alto- 
gether a wonderful man, and had he lired in an age when folly and 
superstition were leas rife, he would, with the same powers which he 
enjoyed, have left behind him a bright and enduring reputation. He 
was bom in London in the year 15S7, and 
very early manifested a love for study. At 
the age of fifteen he was sent to Cambridge, 
and delighted so much in his books, that he 
passed regularly eighteen houra every day 
among them. Of the other sis, he devot- 
ed four t« sleep and- two for refreshment. 
Such intense application did not injure 
his health, and could not &il t« make 
him one of the first scholars of his tnne. 
' Unfortunately, however, he quitted the 
mathematics and the pursuits of true phi- 
°'''"'' loBophy, to indulge in the unproSfable re- 

veries of the occult sciences. He studied alohymy, astrology, and 
m^c, and thereby rendered himself obnoxious to the authorities at 
Cambridge. To avoid peraectttion, he was at last obliged to retire to 
the university of Louvain ; the rumours of sorcery that were current 
respecting him rendering his longer stay in England not altt^ether 
without danger. He found at Louvain many kindred spirits who had 
known Cornelius Agrippa white he refuded among them, and by whom 
he was constantly entertained with the wondrous deeds of that great 
master of the hermetic mysteries. From their conversation he re- 
ceived much encouragement to continue the search for the philoso- 
pher's stone, which soon began to occupy nearly all his thoughts. 

He did not long remain on the Continent, but returned to England 
in 1551, being at that time in the twenty-fourth year of hii age. By 
the influence of his friend Sir John Cheek, he was kindly received at 
the court of King Edward VI., and rewarded (it is difficult to say for 
what) with a pension of one hundred crowns. He continued for 
several years to practise in London as an astrologer j casting nativi- 
ties, telling fortunes, and pointing out lucky and unlucky days. 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 153 

During the reign of Queen Mary he got into trouble, being suspected 
of heresy, and charged with attempting Mary's life by means of 
enchantments. He was tried for the latter offence, and acquitted; 
but was retained in prison on the former charge, and left to the ten- 
der mercies of Bishop Bonner. He had a very narrow escape from 
being burned in Smithfield, but he somehow or other contrived to 
persuade that fierce bigot that his orthodoxy was unimpeachable, and 
was set at liberty in 1555. 

On the accession of Elizabeth, a brighter day dawned upon him. 
During her retirement at Woodstock, her servants appear to have 
consulted him as to the time of Mary's death, which circumstance 
no doubt first gave rise to the serious charge for which he was brought 
to trial. They now came to consult him more openly as to the for- 
tunes of their mistress; and Robert Dudley, the celebrated Earl of 
Leicester, was sent by command of the Queen herself to know the 
most auspicious day for her coronation. So great was the favour he 
enjoyed, that, some years afterwards, Elizabeth condescended to pay 
him a visit at his house in Mortlake, to view his museum of curiosi- 
ties, and when he was ill, sent her own physician to attend upon him. 

Astrology was the means whereby he lived, and he continued to 
practise it with great assiduity ; but his heart was in alchymy . The 
philosopher's stone and the elixir of life haunted his daily thoughts 
and his nightly dreams. The Talmudic mysteries, which he had also 
deeply studied, impressed him with the belief, that he might hold 
converse with spirits and angels, and learn from them all the mysteries 
of the universe. Holding the same idea as the then obscure sect of 
the Kosicrucians, some of whom he had perhaps encountered in his 
travels in Germany, he imagined that, by means of the philosopher's 
stone, he could summon these kindly spirits at his will. By dint of 
continually brooding upon the subject, his imagination became so 
diseased, that he at last persuaded himself that an angel appeared to 
him, and promised to be his friend and companion as long as he lived. 
He relates that, one day, in November 1582, while he was engaged in 
fervent prayer, the window of his museum looking towards the west 
suddenly glowed with a dazzling light, in the midst of which, in all 
his glory, stood the great angel Uriel. Awe and wonder rendered him 
speechless; but the angel smiling graciously upon him, gave him a 
crystal, of a convex form, and told him that whenever he wished to 
hold converse with the beings of another sphere, he had only to gaze 
intently upon it, and they would appear in the crystal, and unveil 
to him all the secrets of futurity.* Thus saying, the angel disap- 

• The "crystal" alluded to appears to have been a black stone, or piece of polished 
coal. The following account of it is given in the supplement to Granger's Biographical 



154 BXISAOBDINiKY FOFin.AB DZLUBIOKS. 

peared. Dee found from esperience of the crystal that it was neces- 
saiy that all the faculties of the soul should be concentrated upon it, 
otherwise the spirits did not appear. He also found that he could 
never recollect the converaationa he had with the angels. He there- 
fore determined to communicate the secret to another person, who 
might converse with the spirit while he (Dee) sat in another part of 
the room, and took down in writing the revelations which they 



He had at this time in his service, as his assistant, one Edward 
Kellj, who, like himself, was ctazj upon the subject of the philoso- 
pher's atone. There was this difference, however, between them, 
that, while Dee was more of an enthusiast than an impostor, Kelly 
was more of an impostor than an enthusiast. In early life he was a 
notary, and had the misfortune to lose both his ears for forgery. This 
mutilation, degrading enough in any man, was destructive to a philo- 
sopher; Kelly, therefore, lest his wisdom should suffer in the world's 
opinion, wore a black skull-cap, which, fitting close to his head, and 
descending over both his cheeks, not only concealed his loss, but gave 
him a very solemn and oracular appearance. So well did he keep his 
secret, that even Dee, with whom he lived so many years, appears 
never to have discovered it. Kelly, with this character, was just the 
man to cany on any piece of roguery for hia own advantage, or to 
nurture the delusions of his master for the same purpose. No sooner 
did Dee inform him of the visit he had received from the glorious 
Uriel, than Kelly expressed such a fervour of belief, that Dee's heart 
glowed with delight. He set about consulting his crystal forthwith, 

Hillary. " The black Htone into wfalcfa Dee uned lo «11 hla splHta wu [n th« cgllectloil 
at Hit GiriB sf PeMrboroDgh, from vhence Itcune to Luly Ellubeth OenniliM. Itwu 
neil Ibe p mpert; at the Ut« Duk« of Arg;le, ud Is now Mr. Wftlpole's. It ippean 

vtM Boiler dhbiis wben bt n,y\ 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 155 

and on the 2d of December, 1581, the spirits appeared, and held a 
very extraordinary discourse with Kelly, which Dee took down in 
writing. The curious reader may see this farrago of nonsense among 
the Harleian Mss. in the British Museum. The later consultations 
were published in a folio volume, in 1659, by Dr. Meric Casaubon, 
under the title of A true and/aithftil Relation of what passed betzpeen 
Dr. John Dee and some Spirits; tending^ had it sttcceeded, to a general 
Alteration of most States and Kingdoms in the World, * 

The fame of these wondrous colloquies soon spread over the coun- 
try, and even reached the Continent. Dee at the same time pretended 
to be in possession of the dixir vitce^ which he stated he had found 
among the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, in Somersetshire. People 
flocked from far and near to his house at Mortlake to have their nati- 
vities cast, in preference to visiting astrologers of less renown. They 
also longed to see a man who, according to his own account, would 
never die. Altogether, he carried on a very profitable trade, but 
spent so much in drugs and metals to work out some peculiar process 
of transmutation, that he never became rich. 

About this time there came into England a wealthy polish noble- 
man, named Albert Laski, Count Palatine of Siradz. His object was 
principally, he said, to visit the court of Queen Elizabeth, the fame 
of whose glory and magnificence had reached him in distant Poland. 
Elizabeth received this flattering stranger with the most splendid hos- 
pitality, and appointed her favourite Leicester to shew him all that 
was worth seeing in England. He visited all the curiosities of Lon- 
don and Westminster, and from thence proceeded to Oxford and Cam- 
bridge, that he might converse with some of the great scholars whose 
writings shed lustre upon the land of their birth. He was very much 
disappointed at not finding Dr. Dee among them, and told the Earl 
of Leicester that he would not have gone to Oxford if he had known 
that Dee was not there. The earl promised to introduce him to the 
great alchymist on their return to London, and the Pole was satisfied. 
A few days afterwards, the earl and Laski being in the antechamber 
of the Queen, awaiting an audience of her majesty. Dr. Dee arrived 
on the same errand, and was introduced* to the Pole.t An interest- 

• Lilly the astrologer, in his Life, written by himself, frequently tells of prophecies 
delivered by the angels in a manner similar to the angels of Dr. Dee. He says, "The 
prophecies were not given vocally by the angels, but by inspection of the crystal in types 
and figures, or by apparition the circular way; where, at some distance, the angels appear, 
representing by forms, shapes, and creatures, what is demanded. It is very rare, yea 
even in our days," quoth that wiseacre, " for any operator or master to hear the angels 
speak articulately : when they do speak, it ia like ihe Irish, much in the throat T 

t Albert Laski, son of Jaroslav, was Palatine of Siradz, and afterwards of Sendomir, 
and chiefly contributed to the election of Henry of Valois, the Third of France, to the 
throne of Poland, and was one of the delegates who went to France in order to announce 



156 EXTBAORDINABT POPULAJL DELUSIONS. 

ing conversation ensued, which ended by the stranger inviting him- 
self to dine with the astrologer at his house at Mortlake. Dee re- 
turned home in some tribulation, for he found he had not money 
enough, without pawning his plate, to entertain Count Laski and his 
retinue in a manner becoming their dignity. In this emergency he 
sent off an express to the Earl of Leicester, stating frankly the em- 
barrassment he laboured under, and praying his good offices in repre- 
senting the matter to her majesty. Elizabeth immediately sent him 
a present of twenty pounds. 

On the appointed day Count Laski came, attended by a numerous 
retinue, and expressed such open and warm admiration of the won- 
derful attainments of his host, that Dee turned over in his own mind 
how he could bind irretrievably to his interests a man who seemed so 
well inclined to become his friend. Long acquaintance with Kelly 
had imbued him with all the roguery of that personage, and he re- 
solved to make the Pole pay dearly for his dinner. He found out 
before many days that he possessed great estates in his own country, 
as well as great influence, but that an extravagant disposition had 
reduced him to temporary embarrassment. He also discovered that 
he was a firm believer in the philosopher's stone and the water of life. 
He was therefore just the man upon whom an adventurer might fasten 
himself. Kelly thought so too ; and both of them set to work to weave 
a web, in the meshes of which they might firmly entangle the rich 
and credulous stranger. They went very cautiously about it ; first 
throwing out obscure hints of the stone and the elixir, and finally of 
the spirits, by means of whom they could turn over the pages of the 
book of futurity, and read the awful secrets inscribed therein. Laski 
eagerly implored that he might be admitted to one of their mysteri- 
ous interviews with Uriel and the angels ; but they knew human na- 
ture too well to accede at once to the request. To the count's entrea- 
ties they only replied by hints of the difficulty or impropriety of sum- 
moning the spirits in the presence of a stranger, or of one who might 
perchance have no other motive than the gratification of a vain curio- 
sity ; but they only meant to whet the edge of his appetite by this 
delay, and would have been*sorry indeed if the count had been dis- 
couraged. To shew how exclusively the thoughts both of Dee and 

to the new monarch his elevation to the sovereignty of Poland. After the deposition of 
Henry, Albert Laski voted for Maximilian of Austria. In 1683 he visited England, when 
Queen Elizabeth received him with great distinction. The honours which were shewn 
him during his visit to Oxford, by the especial command of the Queen, were equal to 
those rendered to sovereign princes. His extraordinary prodigality rendered his enor- 
mous wealth insufficient to defray his expenses, and he therefore became a zealous adept 
in alchymy, and took, from England to Poland with him two known alchymists. — Count 
Valerian Krasinski's Historical Sketch of the Be/ormation in Poland. 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 157 

Kelly were fixed upon their dupe at this time, it is only necessary to 
read the introduction to their first interview with the spirits, related 
in the volume of Dr. Casauhon. The entry made by Dee, under the 
date of the 25th of May, 1583, says, that when the spirit appeared to 
them, " I [John Dee] and E. K. [Edward Kelly] sat together, con- 
versing of that noble Polonian Albertus Laski, his great honour here 
with us obtained, and of his great liking ahiong all sorts of the peo- 
ple." No doubt they were discussing how they might make the most 
of the " noble Polonian," and concocting the fine story with which 
they afterwards excited his curiosity, and drew him firmly within their 
toils. "Suddenly," says Dee, as they were thus employed, "there 
seemed to come out of the oratory ^ spiritual creature, like a pretty 
girl of seven or nine years of age, attu*ed on her head, with her hair 
rolled up before and hanging down behind, with a gown of silk, of 
changeable red and green, and with a train. She seemed to play up 
and down, and seemed to go in and out behind the books ; and as she 
seemed to go between them, the books displaced themselves, and 
made way for her." 

With such tales as these they lured on the Pole from day to day, 
and at last persuaded him to be a witness of their mysteries. Whether 
they played off. any optical delusions upon him, or whether, by the 
force of a strong imagination, he deluded himself, does not appear, 
but certain it is that he became a complete tool in their hands, and 
consented to do whatever they wished him. Kelly, at these inter- 
views, placed himself at a certain distance from the wondrous crystal, 
and gazed intently upon it, while Dee took his place in a comer, ready 
to set down the prophecies as they were uttered by the spirits. In 
this manner they prophesied to the Pole that he should become the 
fortunate possessor of the philosopher's stone; that he should live for 
centuries, and be chosen King of Poland, in which capacity he should 
gain many great victories over the Saracens, and make his name illus- 
trious over all the earth. For this purpose it was necessary, however, 
that Laski should leave England, and take them with him, together 
with their wives and families ; that he should treat them all sumptu- 
ously, and allow them to want for nothing. Laski at once consented ; 
and very shortly afterwards they were all on the road to Poland. 

It took them upwards of four months to reach the count's estates 
in the neighbourhood of Cracow. In the mean time, they led a plea- 
sant life, and spent money with an unsparing hand. When once 
established in the count's palace, they commenced the great hermetic 
operation of transmuting iron into gold. Laski provided them with 
all necessary materials, and aided them himself with his knowledge 
of alchymy ; but, somehow or other, the experiment always failed at 



158 EXTEAOEDINABY POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

the very moment it ought to have succeeded, and they were obliged 
to recommence operations on a grander scale. But the hopes of 
Laski were not easily extinguished. Already, in idea, the possessor 
of countless millions, he was not to be cast down for fear of present 
expenses.' He thus continued from day to day, and from month to 
month, till he was at last obliged to sell a portion of his deeply- 
mortgaged estates to find 'aliment for the hungry crucibles of Dee and 
Kelly, and the no less hungry stomachs of their wives and families. 
It was not till ruin stared him in the face that he awoke from his 
dream of infatuation, too happy, even then, to find that he had escaped 
utter beggary. Thus restored to his senses, his first thought was how 
to rid himself of his expensive visitors. Not wishing to quarrel with 
them, he proposed that they should proceed to Prague, well furnished 
with letters of recommendation to the Emperor Rudolph. Our alchy- 
mists too plainly saw that nothing more was to be made of the ahnost 
destitute Count Laski. Without hesitation, therefore, they accepted 
the proposal, and set out forthwith to the imperial residence. They 
had no difficulty, on their arrival at Prague, in obtaining an audience 
of the emperor. They found him willing enough to believe that such 
a thing as the philosopher's stone existed, and flattered themselves 
that they had made a favourable impression upon him ; but, from 
some cause or other — perhaps the look of low cunning and quackery 
upon the face of Kelly — the emperor conceived no very high opinion 
of their abilities. He allowed them, however, to remain for some 
months at Prague, feeding themselves upon the hope that he would 
employ them ; but the more he saw of them, the less he liked them ; 
and, when the pope's nuncio represented to ^^im that he ought not to 
countenance such heretic magicians, he gave orders that they should 
quit his dominions within four-and-twenty hours. It was fortunate 
for them that so little time was given them ; for, had they remained 
six hours longer, the nuncio had received orders to procure a perpetual 
dungeon or the stake for them. 

Not knowing well whither to direct their steps, they resolved to 
return to Cracow, where they had still a few friends ; but, by this 
time, the funds they had drawn from Laski were almost exhausted, 
and they were many days obliged to go dinnerless and supperless. 
They had great difficulty to keep their poverty a secret from the 
world ; but they managed to bear privation without murmuring, from 
a conviction that if the fact were known, it would militate very much 
against their pretensions. Nobody would believe that they were pos- 
sessors of the philosopher's stone, if it were once suspected that they 
did not know how to procure bread for their subsistence. They still 
gained a little by casting nativities, and kept starvation at arm's 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 159 

length, till a new dupe, rich enough for their purposes, dropped into 
their toils, in the shape of a royal personage. Having procured an 
introduction to Stephen king of Poland, they predicted to him that 
the Emperor Rudolph would shortly be assassinated, and that the 
Germans would look to Poland for his successor. As this prediction 
was not precise enough to satisfy the king, they tried their crystal 
again, and a spirit appeared who told them that the new sovereign of 
GermaDy would be Stephen of Poland. Stephen was credulous enough 
to believe them, and was once present when Kelly held his mystic 
conversations with the shadows of his crystal. He also appears to 
have furnished them with money to carry on their experiments in 
alchymy ; but he grew tired, at last, of their broken promises and 
their constant drains upon his pocket, and was on the point of dis- 
carding them with disgrace, when they met with another dupe, to 
whom they eagerly transferred their services. This was Count Rosen- 
berg, a nobleman of large estates at Trebona in Bohemia. So com- 
fortable did they find themselves in the palace of this munificent 
patron, that they remained nearly four years with him, faring sump- 
tuously, and having an almost unlimited command of his money. 
The count was more ambitious than avaricious : he had wealth 
enough, and did not care for the philosopher's stoue on account of 
the gold, but of the length of days it would bring him. They had 
their predictions, accordingly, all ready framed to suit his character. 
They prophesied that he should be chosen king of Poland ; and pro- 
mised, moreover, that he should live for five hundred years to enjoy 
his dignity, provided always that he found them sufficient money to 
carry on their experiments. 

But now, while fortune smiled upon them, while they revelled in 
the rewards of successful villany, retributive justice came upon them 
in a shape they had not anticipated. Jealousy and mistrust sprang 
up between the two confederates, and led to such violent and frequent 
quarrels, that Dee was in constant fear of exposure. Kelly imagined 
himself a much greater personage than Dee ; measuring, most likely, 
by the standard of impudent roguery ; and was displeased that on all 
occasions, and from all persons. Dee received the greater share of 
honour and consideration. He often threatened to leave Dee to shift 
for himself ; and the latter, who had degenerated into the mere tool 
of his more daring associate, was distressed beyond measure at the 
prospect of his desertion. His mind was so deeply imbued with super- 
stition, that he believed the rhapsodies of Kelly to be, in a great 
measure, derived from his intercourse with angels ; and he knew not 
where, in the whole world, to look for a man of depth and wisdom 
enough to succeed him. As their quarrels every day became more 



160 EXTRAORDINAKT *OPULAB DELUSIONS. 

and more frequent, Dee wrote letters to Queen Elizabeth to secure a 
favourable reception on his return to England, whither he intended 
to proceed if Kelly forsook him. He also sent her a round piece of 
silver, which he pretended he had made of a portion of brass cut out 
of a warming-pan. He afterwards sent her the warming-pan also, 
that she might convince herself that the piece of silver^corresponded 
exactly with the hole which was cut into the brass. While thus pre- 
paring for the worst, his chief desire was to remain in Bohemia with 
Count Rosenberg, who treated him well, and reposed much confidence 
in him. Neither had Kelly any great objection to remain ; but a new 
passion had taken possession of his breast, and he was laying deep 
schemes to gratify it. His own wife was iU-favoured and ill-natured ; 
Dee*s was comely and agreeable ; and he longed to make an exchange 
of partners without exciting the jealousy or shocking the moraUty of 
Dee. This was a difficult matter ; but to a man like Kelly, who was 
as deficient in rectitude and right feeling as he was full of impudence 
and ingenuity, the difficulty was not insurmountable. He had also 
deeply studied the character and the foibles of Dee ; and he took his 
measures accordingly. The next time they consulted the spirits, 
Kelly pretended to be shocked at their language, and refused to tell 
Dee what they had said. Dee insisted, and was informed that they 
were henceforth to have their wives in common. Dee, a little startled, 
inquired whether the spirits might not mean that they were to live in 
common harmony and good- will ? Kelly tried again, with apparent 
reluctance, and said the spirits insisted upon the literal interpretation. 
The poor fanatic Dee resigned himself to their will ; but it suited 
Kelly's purpose to appear coy a little longer. He declared that the 
spirits must be spirits not of good, but of evil ; and refused to con- 
sult them any more. He thereupon took his departure, saying that 
he would never return. 

Dee, thus left to himself, was in sore trouble and distress of mind. 
He knew not on whom to fix as the successor to Kelly for consulting 
the spirits ; but at last chose his son Arthur, a boy of eight years of 
age. He consecrated him to this service with great ceremony, and 
impressed upon the child's mind the dignified and awful nature of 
the duties he was called upon to perform ; but the poor boy had 
neither the imagination, the faith, nor the artifice of Kelly. He 
looked intently upon the crystal as he was told ; but could see nothing 
and hear nothing. At last, when his eyes ached, he said he could see 
a vague indistinct shadow, but nothing more. Dee was in despair. 
The deception had been carried on so long, that he was never so 
happy as when he fancied he was holding converse with superior 
beings ; and he cursed the day that had put estrangement between 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 161 

him and his dear friend Kelly. This was exactly what Kelly had 
foreseen ; and, when he thought the doctor had grieved sufficiently 
for his ahsenoe, he returned unexpectedly, and entered the room 
where the little Arthur was in vain endeavouring to distinguish 
something in the crystal. Dee, in entenng this circumstance in his 
journal, ascribes this sudden return to a " miraculous fortune" and 
a " divine fate ;" and goes on to record that Kelly immediately saw 
the spirits which had remained invisible to little Arthur. One of 
these spirits reiterated tiie previous command, that they should have 
their wives in common. Kelly bowed his head and submitted ; and 
Dee, in all humility, consented to the arrangement. 

This was the extreme depth of the wretched man's degradation. 
In this manner they continued to live for three or four months, 
when, new quarrels breaking out, they separated once more. This 
time their separation was final. Kelly, taking the dixir which he 
had found in Glastonbury Abbey, proceeded to Prague, forgetful of 
the abrupt mode in which he had previously been expelled from that 
city. Almost immediately after his arrival, he was seized by order 
of the Emperor Rudolph, and thrown into prison. He was released 
after some months' confinement, and continued for five years to lead 
a vagabond life in Germany, telling fortunes at one place, and pre- 
tending to make gold at another. He was a second time thrown into 
prison, on a charge of heresy and sorcery ; and he then resolved, if 
ever he obtained his liberty, to return to England. He soon dis- 
covered that there was no prospect of this, and that his imprisonment 
was likely to be for life. He twisted his bed-clothes into a rope, 
one stormy night in Februaiy 1595, and let himself down from the 
window of his dungeon, situated at the top of a very high tower. 
Being a corpulent man, the rope gave way, and he was precipitated 
to the ground. He broke two of his ribs and both his legs ; and was 
otherwise so much injured, that he expired a few days afterwards. 

Dee, for a while, had more prosperous fortune. The warming- 
pan he had sent to Queen Elizabeth was not without effect. He was 
rewarded soon after Kelly had left him with an invitation to return 
to England. His pride, which had been sorely humbled, sprang up 
again to its pristine dimensions, and he set out from Bohemia with a 
train of attendants becoming an ambassador. How he procured the 
money does not appear, unless from the liberality of the rich Bohemian 
Rosenberg, or perhaps from his plunder. He travelled with three 
coaches for himself and family, and three wagons to carry his bag- 
gage. Each coach had four horses, and the whole train was protected 
by a guard of four and twenty soldiers. This statement may be 
doubted ; but it is on the authority of Dee himself, who made it on 

11 



162 EXTBAOBDIKABY POPt^LAB DELUSIONS. 

oath before the commissioners appointed by Elizabeth to inquire into 
his circumstances. On his arrival in England he had an audience of 
the queen, who received him kindly as far as words went, and gave 
orders that he should not be molested in his pursuits of chemistry 
and philosophy. A man who boasted of the power to turn baser 
metals into gold, could not, thought Elizabeth, be in want of money ; 
and she therefore gave him no more substantial marks of her appro- 
bation than her countenance and protection. 

Thrown thus unexpectedly upon his own resources. Dee began in 
earnest the search for the philosopher's stone. He worked inces- 
santly among his furnaces, retorts, and crucibles, and almost poisoned 
himself with deleterious fumes. He also consulted his miraculous 
crystal; but the spirits appeared not to him. He tried one Bar- 
tholomew to supply the place of the invaluable Kelly ; but he being 
a man of some little probity, and of no imagination at all, the spirits 
would not hold any communication with him. Dee then tried another 
pretender to philosophy, of the name of Hickman, but had no better 
fortune. The crystal had lost its power since the departure of its 
great high priest. From this quarter, then. Dee could get no informa- 
tion on the stone or elixir of the alchymists, and all his efforts to dis- 
cover them by other means were not only fruitless but expensive. He 
was soon reduced to great distress, and wrote piteous letters to the 
queen praying relief. He represented that, after he left England with 
Count Laski, the mob had pillaged his house at Mortlake, accusing 
him of being a necromancer and a wizard ; and had broken all his 
furniture, burned his library, consisting of four thousand rare volumes, 
and destroyed all the philosophical instruments and curiosities in his 
museum. For this damage he claimed compensation ; and further- 
more stated, that, as he had come to England by the queen's com- 
mand, she ought to pay the expenses of his journey. Elizabeth sent 
him small sums of money at various times ; but Dee still continuing 
his complaints, a commission was appointed to inquire into his cir- 
cumstances. He finally obtained a small appointment as Chancellor 
of St. Paul's cathedral, which he exchanged, in 1595, for the warden- 
ship of the college at Manchester. He remained in this capacity till 
1602 or 1603, when, his strength and intellect beginning to fail him, 
he was compelled to resign. He retired to his old dwelling at Mort- 
lake, in a state not far removed from actual want, supporting himself 
as a common fortune-teller, and being c^ten obliged to sell or pawn, 
his books to procure a dinner. James I. was often applied to on his 
behalf, but he refused to do any thing for him. It may be said to the 
discredit of this king, that the only reward he would grant the inde- 
fatigable Stowe, in his days of old age and want, was the royal per- 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 163 

mission to beg ; but no one will blame him for neglecting such a 
quack as John Dee. He died in 1608, in the eighty-first year of his 
age, and was buried at Mortlake. 

The Cosmopolite. 

Many disputes have arisen as to the real name of the alchymist 
who wrote several works under the above designation. The general 
opinion is that he was a Scotsman named Seton, and that by a fate 
very common to alchymists who boasted too loudly of their powers 
of transmutation, he ended his days miserably in a dungeon, into 
which he was thrown by a German potentate until he made a million 
of gold to pay his ransom. By some he has been confounded with 
Michael Sendivog, or Sendivogius, a Pole, a professor of the same 
art, who made a great noise in Europe at the commencement of the 
seventeenth century. Lenglet du Fresnoy, who is in general well 
informed with respect to the alchymists, inclines to the belief that 
these personages were distinct ; and gives the following particulars 
of the Cosmopolite, extracted from George Morhoff, in his Epistola 
ad Langdottimiy and other writers. 

About the year 1600, one Jacob Haussen, a Dutch pilot, was ship- 
wrecked on the coast of Scotland. A gentleman, named Alexander 
Seton, put off in a boat, and saved him from drowning, and after- 
wards entertained him hospitably for many weeks at his house on the 
shore. Haussen saw that he was addicted to the pursuits of che- 
mistry, but no conversation on the subject passed between them at 
the time. About a year and a half afterwards, Haussen being then 
at home at Enkhuysen, in Holland, received a visit from his former 
host. He endeavoured to repay the kindness that had been shewn 
him ; and so great a friendship arose between them that Seton, on 
his departure, offered to make him acquainted with the great secret 
of the philosopher's stone. In his presence the Scotsman transmuted 
a great quantity of base metal into pure gold, and gave it him as a 
mark of his esteem. Seton then took leave of his friend, and tra- 
velled into Germany. At Dresden he made no secret of his wonderfal 
powers, having, it is said, performed transmutation successfully be- 
fore a great assemblage of the learned men of that city. The cir- 
cumstance coming to the ears of the Duke or Elector of Saxony, he 
gave orders for the arrest of the alchymist. He caused him to be 
imprisoned in a high tower, and set a guard of forty men to watch 
that he did not escape, and that no strangers were admitted to hia 
presence. The unfortunate Seton received several visits from the 
elector, who used every art of persuasion to make him divulge hk 
secret. Seton obstinately refused either to communicate his secret^ 



104 XXTBJLOBDINABY FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

or to make any gold for the tyrant ; on which he was stretched upon 
the rack, to see if the argument of torture would render him more 
tractable. The result was still the same ; neither hope of reward nor 
fear of anguish could shake him. For several months he remained 
in prison, subjected alternately to a sedative and a violent regimen, 
till his health broke, and he wasted away almost to a skeleton. 

There happened at that time to be in Dresden a learned Pole, 
named Michael Sendivogius, who had wasted a good deal of his time 
and substance in the unprofitable pursuits of alchymy. He was 
touched with pity for the hard fate, and admiration for the intrepidity 
of Seton ; and determined, if possible, to aid him in escaping from 
the clutch of his oppressor. He requested the elector's permission 
to see the alchymist, and obtained it with some difficulty. He found 
him in a state of great wretchedness, shut up from the light of day 
in a noisome dungeon, and with no better couch or fare than those 
allotted to the worst of criminals. Seton listened eagerly to the pro- 
posal of escape, and promised the generous Pole that he would make 
him richer than an eastern monarch if by his means he were liberated. 
Sendivogius immediately commenced operations ; he sold some pro- 
perty which he possessed near Cracow, and with the proceeds led a 
merry life at Dresden. He gave the most elegant suppers, to which 
he regularly invited the officers of the guard, and especially those who 
did duty at the prison of the alchymist. He insinuated himself at 
last into their confidence, and obtained free ingress to his friend as 
often as he pleased ; pretending that he was using his utmost endea- 
vours to conquer his obstinacy and worm his secret out of him. 
When their project was ripe, a day was fixed upon for the grand 
attempt ; and Sendivogius was ready with a post-chariot to convey 
him with all speed into Poland. By drugging some wine which he 
presented to the guards of the prison, he rendered them so drowsy 
that he easily found means to scale a wall unobserved, with Seton, 
and effect his escape. Seton's wife was in the chariot awaiting him, 
having safely in her possession a small packet of a black powder, which 
was, in fact, the philosopher's stone, or ingredient for the transmu- 
tation of iron and copper into gold. They all arrived in safety at 
Cracow ; but the frame of Seton was so wasted by torture of body 
and starvation, to say nothing of the anguish of mind he had en- 
dured, that he did not long survive. He died in Cracow, in 1603 or 
1604, and was buried under the cathedral church of that city. Such 
is the story related of the author of the various works which bear the 
name of the Cosmopolite. A list of them may be found in the third 
volume of the History of the Hermetic Philosophy, 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 165 



Sendiyogius. 



On the death of Seton, Sendivogius married his widow, hoping to 
learn from her some of the secrets of her deceased lord in the art of 
transmutation. The ounce of black powder stood him, however, in 
better service; for the alchjmists say, that bj its means he con- 
verted great quantities of quicksilver into the purest gold. It is also 
said that he performed this experiment successfully before the Em- 
peror Rudolph II., at Prague ; and that the emperor, to commemo- 
rate the circumstance, caused a marble tablet to be affixed to the 
wall of the room in which it was performed, bearing this inscription, 
" Faciat hoc quispiam alius, quod fecit Sendivogius Polonus." M, 
Desnoyers, secretary to the Princess Mary of Gk)nzaga, Queen of 
Poland, writing from Warsaw in 1661, says that he saw this tablet, 
which existed at that time, and was often visited by the curious. 

The after-life of Sendivogius is related in a Latin memoir of him 
by one Brodowski, his steward ; and is inserted by Pierre Borel in 
his Treasure of Gaulish AfUiquities, The Emperor Rudolph, accord- 
ing to this authority, was so well pleased with his success, that he 
made him one of his councillors of state, and invited him to fill a 
station in the royal household and inhabit the palace. But Sendivo- 
gius loved his liberty, and refused to become a courtier. He pre- 
ferred to reside on his own patrimonial estate of Gravama, where, 
for many years, he exercised a princely hospitality. His philosophic 
powder, which, his steward says, was red, and not black, he kept in 
a little box of gold ; and with one grain of it he could make five 
hundred ducats, or a thousand rix-dollars. He generally made his 
projection upon quicksilver. When he travelled, he gave this box 
to his steward, who hung it round his neck by a gold chain next his 
skin. But the greatest part of the powder he used to hide in a secret 
place cut into the step of hw chariot. He thought that, if attacked 
at any time by robbers, they would not search such a place as that. 
When he anticipated any danger, he would dress himself in his 
valet's clothes, and, mounting the coach-box, put the valet inside. 
He was induced to take these precautions, because it was no secret 
that he possessed the philosopher's stone ; and many unprincipled 
adventurers were on the watch for an opportunity to plunder him. 
A German prince, whose name Brodowski has not thought fit to 
chronicle, served him a scurvy trick, which ever afterwards put him 
on his guard. This prince went on his knees to Sendivogius, and 
entreated him in the most pressing terms to satisfy his curiosity, 
by converting some quicksilver into gold before him. Sendivogius, 
wearied by his importunity, consented, upon a promise of inviolable 



166 £XTBAOBJ)INAB.T FOPULAB, DELUSIONS. 

secrecy. After his departure, the prince called a Gennan alchymist, 
named Muhlenfels, who resided in his house, and told him all that 
had been done. Muhlenfels entreated that he might have a dozen 
mounted horsemen at his command, that he might instantly ride 
after the philosopher, and either rob him of all his powder, or force 
from him the secret of making it. The prince desired nothing bet- 
ter ; Muhlenfels, being provided with twelve men well mounted and 
armed, pursued Scndivogius in hot haste. He came up with him at 
a lonely inn by the road-side, just as he was sitting down to dinner. 
He at first endeavoured to persuade him to divulge the secret ; but 
finding this of no avail, he caused his accomplices to strip the un- 
fortunate Sendivogius and tie him naked to one of the pillars of the 
house. He then took from him his golden box, containing a small 
quantity of the powder; a manuscript book on the philosopher's 
stone ; a golden medal, with its chain, presented to him by the 
Emperor Rudolph ; and a rich cap, ornamented with diamonds, 
of the value of one hundred thousand rix-dollars. With this booty 
he decamped, leaving Sendivogius still naked and firmly bound to 
the pillar. His servants had been treated in a similar manner ; but 
the people of the inn released them all as soon as the robbers were 
out of sight. 

Sendivogius proceeded to Prague, and made his complaint to the 
emperor. An express was instantly sent off to the prince, with or- 
ders that he should deliver up Muhlenfels and all his plunder. The 
prince, fearful of the emperor's wrath, caused three large gallows to 
be erected in his court-yard ; on the highest of which he hanged 
Muhlenfels, with another thief on each side of him. He thus pro- 
pitiated the emperor, and got rid of an ugly witness against himself. 
He sent back, at the same time, the bejewelled hat, the medal and 
chain, and the treatise upon the philosopher's stone, which had been 
stolen from Sendivogius. As regarded the powder, he said he had 
not seen it, and knew nothing about it. 

This adventure made Sendivogius more prudent ; he would no 
longer perform the process of transmutation before any strangers, how- 
ever highly recommended. He pretended also to be very poor ; and 
sometimes lay in bed for weeks together, that people might believe 
he was suffering from some dangerous malady, and could not there- 
fore, by any possibility, be the owner of the philosopher's stone. He 
would occasionally coin false money, and pass it off as gold ; prefer- 
ring to be esteemed a cheat rather than a successful alchymist. 

Many other extraordinary tales are told of this personage by his 
steward Brodowski, but they are not worth repeating. He died in 
1636, aged upwards of eighty, and was buried in his own chapel at 



THE AXCHYMI8TS. 167 

Gravama. Several works upon alchjmy have been published under 
his name. 

The RosicRuciANs. 

It was during the time of the last-mentioned author that the sect 
of the Rosicrucians first began to create a sensation in Europe. The 
influence which they exercised upon opinion during their brief career, 
and the permanent impression which they have left upon European 
literature, claim for them especial notice. Before their time, alchymy 
was but a grovelling delusion ; and theirs is the merit of having spi- 
ritualised and refined it. They also enlarged its sphere, and supposed 
the possession of the philosopher's stone to be, not only the means of 
wealth, but of health and happiness, and the instrument by which 
man could command the services of superior beings, control the ele- 
ments to his will, defy the obstructions of time and ^ace, and ac- 
quire the most intimate knowledge of all the secrets of the universe. 
Wild and visionary as they were, they were not without their uses ; if 
it were only for having purged the superstitions of Europe of the dark 
and disgusting forms with which the monks had peopled it, and substi- 
tuted, in their stead, a race of mild, graceful, and beneficent beings. 

They are said to have derived their name from Christian Rosen- 
creutz, or *' Rose-cross," a German philosopher, who travelled in the 
Holy Land towards the close of the fourteenth century. While dan- 
gerously ill at a place called Damcar, he was visited by some learned 
Arabs, who claimed him as their brother in science, and unfolded to 
him, by inspiration, all the secrets of his past life, both of thought 
and of action. They restored him to health by means of the philoso- 
pher's stone, and afterwards instructed him in all their mysteries. He 
returned to Europe in 1401, being then only twenty-three years of 
age ; and drew a chosen number of his friends around him, whom he 
initiated into the new science, and bound by solemn oaths to keep it 
secret for a century. He is said to have lived eighty-three years after 
this period, and to have died in 1484. 

Many have denied the existence of such a personage as Rosen- 
creutz, and have fixed the origin of this sect at a much later epoch. 
The first dawning of it, they say, is to be found in the theories of 
Paracelsus and the dreams of Dr. Dee, who, without intending it, 
became the actual, though never the recognised founders of the Rosi- 
crucian philosophy. It is now difficult, and indeed impossible, to 
determine whether Dee and Paracelsus obtained their ideas from the 
then obscure and unknown Rosicnicians, or whether the Rosicru- 
cians did but follow and improve upon them. Certain it is, that 
their existence was never suspected till the year 1605, when they 



168 EXTBAOSDUTABY FOFUIAS DELUSIONS. 

began to excite attention in Germany. No sooner were their doc- 
trines promulgated, than all the yisionaries, Paracelsists, and alchy- 
mists, flocked around their standard, and vaunted Rosencreutz as 
the new regenerator of the human race. Michael Mayer, a cele- 
brated physician of that day, and who had impaired his health and 
wasted his fortune in searching for the philosopher's stone, drew up a 
report of the tenets and ordinances of the new fraternity, which was 
published at Cologne, in the year 1615. They asserted, in the first 
place, '^ that the meditations of their founders surpassed every thing 
that had ever been imagined since the creation of the world, without 
even excepting the revelations of the Deity ; that they were destined 
to accomplish the general peace and regeneration of man before the 
end of the world arrived ; that they possessed all wisdom and piety in 
a supreme degree ; that they possessed all the graces of nature, and 
could distribute them among the rest of mankind according to their 
pleasure ; that they were subject to neither hunger, nor thirst, nor 
disease, nor old age, nor to any other inconvenience of nature ; that 
they knew by inspiration, and at the first glance, every one who was 
worthy to be admitted into their society ; that they had the same 
knowledge then which they -would have possessed if they had lived 
from the beginning of the world, and had been always acquiring it ; 
that they had a volume in which they could read all that ever was or 
ever would be written in other books till the end of time ; that they 
could force to, and retain in their service the most powerful spirits 
and demons ; that, by the virtue of their songs, they could attract 
pearls and precious stones from the depths of the sea or the bowels of 
the earth ; that God had covered them with a thick cloud, by means 
of which they could shelter themselves from the malignity of their 
enemies, and that they could thus render themselves invisible from 
all eyes ; that the first eight brethren of the ^ Rose-cross ' had power 
to cure all maladies ; that, by means of the fraternity, the triple dia- 
dem of the pope would be reduced into dust; that they only admitted 
two sacraments, with the ceremonies of the primitive Church, renewed 
by them; that they recognised the Fourth Monarchy and the Emperor 
of the Romans as their chief and the chief of all Christians ; that they 
would provide him with more gold, their treasures being inexhaust* 
ible, than the King of Spain had ever drawn from the golden regions 
of Eastern and Western Ind." This was their confession of Mth. 
Their rules of conduct were six in number, and as follow : 

First. That, in their travels, they should gratuitously cure all dis- 
eases. 

Secondly. That they should always dress in conformity to the 
fashion of the country in which they resided. 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 169 

Thirdly. That they should, once every year, meet together in the 
place appointed by the fraternity, or send in writing an available 
excuse. 

Fourthly. That every brother, whenever he felt inclined to die, 
should choose a person worthy to succeed him. 

Fifthly. That the words " Rose-cross" should be the marks by 
which they should recognise each other. 

Sixthly. That their fraternity should be kept secret for six times 
twenty years. 

They asserted that these laws had been found inscribed in a golden 
book in the tomb of Rosencreutz, and that the six tinles twenty years 
from his death expired in 1604. They were consequently called upon 
from that time forth to promulgate their doctrine for the welfare of 
mankind. ''^ 

For eight years these enthusiasts made converts in Germany, but 
they excited little or no attention in other parts of Europe. At last 
they made their appearance in Paris, and threw all the learned, all 
the credulous, and all the lovers of the marvellous into commotion. 
In the beginning of March 1623, the good folks of that dty, when 
they arose one morning, were surprised to find all their walls placarded 
with the following singular manifesto : 

** We, the deputies of the principcii College of the Brethren oftheRoae- 
cro88, have taken up our abode, visibie and invisible, in this city, by the 
gro/ce of the Most High, towards whom are turned the hearts of the just. 
We shew and teach without hooks or signs, and speak all sorts of Ian- 
guages in the countries where we dwdl, to draw mankind, our fellows, 
from error and from death," 

For a long time this strange placard was the sole topic of conver- 

* The following legend of the tomb of Bosencreutz, written by Eustace Budgell, ap- 
pears in No. 379 of the Spectator: — " A certain person, having occasion to dig somewhat 
deep in the ground where this philosopher lay interred, met with a small door, having a 
wall on each side of it. His curiosity, and the hope of finding some hidden treasure, 
soon prompted him to force open the door. He was immediately surprised by a sudden 
blaze of light, and discovered a very fair vault. At the upper end of it was a statue of a 
man in armour, sitting by a table, and leaning on his left arm. He held a truncheon in 
his right hand, &nd had a lamp burning before him. The man had no sooner set one foot 
within the vault, than the statue, erecting itself from its leaning posture, stood bolt up- 
light ; and, upon the fellow's advancing another step, lifted up the truncheon in his right 
hand. The man still ventured a third step; when the statue, with a Airious blow, broke 
the lamp into a thousand pieces, and left his guest in sudden darkness. Upon the report 
of this adventure, the country people came with lights to the sepulchre, and discovered 
that the statue, which was made of brass, was nothing more than a piece of clock-work; 
that the floor of the vault was all loose, and underlaid with several springs, which, upon 
any man's entering, naturally produced that which had happened. 

" Rosicreucius, say his disciples, made use of this method to shew the world that he 
had re-invented the ever-burning lam])s of the ancients, though he was resolved no one 
should reap any advantage from the discovery." 



170 EXTRAOBDINABT POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

sation in all public places. Some few wondered, but the greater 
number only laughed at it. In the course, of a few weeks two books 
were published, which raised the first alarm respecting this mysteri- 
ous society, whose dwelling-place no one knew, and no members of 
which had ever been seen. The first was called a history of The 
friffhtfvl Compacts entered into between the Devil and the pretended ^In- 
visibles ;^ with their damnable Instrvxstions^ the deplorable Ruin of their 
Disciples, aTid their misej'able end. The other was called an Exantirua- 
tion of the new and unknown Cabala of the Brethren of the Rose-cross^ 
who have lately inhabited the City of Paris; with the History of their 
Manners, the Wonders worked by them, and m/xny other particulars. 

These books sold rapidly. Every one was anxious to know some- 
thing of this dreadful and secret brotherhood. The badavds of Paris 
were so alarmed that they daily expected to see the arch-enemy walk- 
ing ill propria persona among them. It was said in these volumes 
that the Rosicrucian society consisted of six-and-thirty persons in all, 
who had renounced their baptism and hope of resurrection. That it 
was not by means of good angels, as they pretended, that they worked 
their prodigies ; but that it was the devil who gave them power to 
transport themselves from one end of the world to the other with the 
rapidity of thought; to speak all languages; to have their purses 
always full of money, however much they might spend ; to be invisi- 
ble, and penetrate into the most secret places, in spite of fastenings 
of bolts and bars ; and to be able to tell the past and future. These 
thirty-six brethren were divided into bands or companies : six of them 
only had been sent on the mission to Paris, six to Italy, six to Spain^ 
six to Germany, four to Sweden, and two into Switzerland, two into 
Flanders, two into Lorraine, and two into Franche Comt6. R was 
generally believed that the missionaries to France resided somewhere 
in the Marais du Temple. That quarter of Paris soon acquired 
a bad name, and people were afraid to take houses in it, lest they 
should be turned out by the six invisibles of the Rose-cross. It was 
beheved by the populace, and by many others whose education should 
have taught them better, that persons of a mysterious aspect used to 
visit the inns and hotels of Paris, and eat of the best meats and drink 
of the best wines, and then suddenly melt away into thin air when 
the landlord came with the reckoning. That gentle maidens, who 
went to bed alone, often awoke in the night and found men in bed 
with them, of shape more beautiful than the Grecian Apollo, who im- 
mediately became invisible when an alarm was raised. It was also 
said that many persons found large heaps of gold in their houses with- 
out knowing from whence they came. All Paris was in alarm. Ko 
man thought himself secure of his goods, no maiden of her virginity, 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 171 

or wife of her chastity, while these Rosicruciaus were abroad. In the 
midst of the commotion, a second placard was issued to the following 
eflfect : 

^^ If any one desires to see the brethren of the Rose-cross from curiosity 
mdy, he will never communicate with us. But if his will really induces 
him to inscribe his n/vme in the register of our brotherhood^ we, who can 
judge of the thoughts of all Tnen, wiU convince him of the truth of our 
promises. For this reason we do ^ not ptMish to the world the place of 
our abode. Thought alon/e, in unison with the sincere will of those who 
desire to know us, is sufficient to m/ike us known to them, and them to us J"* 

Though the existence of such a society as that of the Rose-cross 
was problematical, it was quite evident that somebody or other was 
concerned in the promulgation of these placards, which were stuck 
up on every wall in Paris. The police endeavoured in vain to find 
out the offenders, and their want of success only served to increase 
the perplexity of the public. The Church very soon took up the que&- 
tion ; and the Abb6 Gaultier, a Jesuit, wrote a book to prove that, 
by their enmity to the pope, they could be no other than disciples of 
Luther, sent to promulgate his heresy. Their very name, he added, 
proved that they were heretics ; a cross surmounted by a rose being 
the heraldic device of the arch-heretic Luther. One Garasse said they 
were a confraternity of drunken impostors ; and that their name was 
derived from the garland of roses, in the form of a cross, hung over 
the tables of taverns in Germany as the emblem of secrecy, and from 
whence was derived the common sajring, when one man communicated 
a secret to another, that it was said " under the rose.'* Others inter- 
preted the letters F. R. C. to mean, not Brethren of the Rose-cross, 
but Fratres Roris Cocti, or Brothers of Boiled Dew ; and explained 
this appellation by alleging that they collected large quantities of 
morning dew, and boiled it, in order to extract a very valuable ingre- 
dient in the composition of the philosopher's stone and the water 
of life. 

The fraternity thus attacked defended themselves as well as they 
were able. They denied that they used magic of any kind, or that 
they consulted the devil. They said they were all happy; that they 
had lived more than a century, and expected to live many centuries 
more ; and that the intimate knowledge which they possessed of all 
nature was communicated to them by God himself as a reward for 
their piety and utter devotion to his service. Those were in error 
who derived their name from a cross of roses, or called them drunk- 
ards. To set the world right on the first point, they reiterated that 
they derived their name from Christian Rosencreutz, their founder ; 
and to answer the latter charge, they repeated that they knew not 



172 XXTBAOBOINABT POFULAS DELUSIONS. 

what thirst was, and had higher pleasures than those of the palate. 
They did not desire to meddle with the politics or religion of any man 
or set of men, although they could not help denying the supremacy 
of the pope, and looking upon him as a tyrant. Many slanders, they 
said, had heen repeated respecting them, the most unjust of which 
was, that they indulged in carnal appetites, and, under the cloak of 
their invisibility, crept into the chambers of beautiful maidens. They 
asserted, on the contrary, that the first vow they took on entering 
the society was a vow of chastity, and that any one among them who 
transgressed in that particular would immediately lose all the advan- 
tages he enjoyed, and be exposed once more to hunger, woe, disease, 
and death, like other men. So strongly did they feel on the subject 
of chastity, that they attributed the feJl of Adam solely to his want 
of this virtue. Besides defending themselves in this manner, they 
entered into a further confession of their faith. They discarded for 
ever all the old tales of sorcery and witchcraft, and communion with 
the devil. They said there were no such horrid, unnatural, and dis- 
gusting beings as the incubi and succubi, and the innumerable gro- 
tesque imps that men had believed in for so many ages. Man was 
not surrounded with enemies like these, but with myriads of beauti- 
ful and beneficent beings, all anxious to do him service. The air was 
peopled with sylphs, the water with undines or naiads, the bowels of 
the earth with gnomes, and the fire with salamanders. AU these 
beings were the friends of man, and desired nothing so much as that 
men should pui^e themselves of all uncleanness, and thus be enabled 
to see and converse with them. They possessed great power, and 
were unrestrained by the barriers of space or the obstructions of mat- 
ter. But man was in one particular their superior. He had an im- 
mortal soul, and they had not. They might, however, become sharers 
in man's immortality if they could inspire one of that race with the 
passion of love towards them. Hence it was the constant endeavour 
of the female spirits to captivate the admiration of men, and of the 
male gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines to be beloved by a 
woman. The object of this passion, in returning their love, imparted 
a portion of that celestial fire, the soul ; and from that time forth the 
beloved became equal to the lover, and both, when their allotted 
course was run, entered together into the mansions of felicity. These 
spirits, they said, watched constantly over mankind by night and day. 
Dreams, omens, and presentiments were all their works, and the 
means by which they gave warning of the approach of danger. But 
though so well inclined to befriend man for their own sakes, the want 
of a soul rendered them at times capricious and revengeful ; they took 
offence on slight causes, and heaped injuries instead of benefits on 



THE ALCHTMIBM. 173 

the heads of those who extinguished the light of reason that was in 
them by gluttony, debauchery, and other appetites of the body. 

The excitement produced in Paris by the placards of the brother- 
hood and the attacks of the clergy wore itself away after a few months. 
The stories circulated about them became at last too absurd even for 
that age of absurdity, and men began to laugh once more at those in*- 
visible gentlemen and their fantastic doctrines. Gabriel Naud6 at 
that conjuncture brought out his Avis d la France sur lea Frkres de 
la Rose-croix, in which he very successfully exposed the folly of the 
new sect. This work, though not well written, was well timed. It 
quite extinguished the Bosicrudans of France ; and after that year 
little more was heard of them. Swindlers in different parts of the 
country assumed the name at times to cloak their depredations ; and 
now and then one of them was caught and hanged for his too great 
ingenuity in enticing pearls and precious stones from the pockets of 
other people into his own, or for passing off lumps of gilded brass for 
pure gold, made by the agency of the philosopher's stone. With these 
exceptions, oblivion shrouded them. 

The doctrine was not confined to a sphere so narrow as France 
alone ; it still flourished in Germany, and drew many converts in Eng- 
land. The latter countries produced two great masters in the persons 
of Jacob Bohmen and Robert Fludd — ^pretended philosophers, of whom 
it is difficult to say which was the more absurd and extravagant. It 
would appear that the sect was divided into two classes — the brothers 
Roseoe Cruets^ who devoted themselves to the wonders of this sublunary 
sphere, and the brothers Aurece Cruets, who were wholly occupied in 
the contemplation of things divine. Fludd belonged to the first class, 
and Bohmen to the second. Fludd may be called the father of the 
English Rosicrucians, and as such merits a conspicuous niche in the 
temple of Folly. 

He was bom in the year 1574 at Milgate, in Kent, and was the 
son of Sir Thomas Fludd, Treasurer of War to Queen Elizabeth. He 
was originally intended for the army ; but he was too fond of study, 
and of a disposition too quiet and retiring, to shine in that sphere. 
His father would not therefore press him to adopt a course of life for 
which he was unsuited, and encouraged him in the study of medicine, 
for which he early manifested a partiality. At the age of twenty-five 
he proceeded to the continent ; and being fond of the abstruse, the 
marvellous, and the incomprehensible, he became an ardent disciple 
of the school of Paracelsus, whom he looked upon as the regenerator 
not only of medicine, but of philosophy. He remained six years in 
Italy, France, and Germany, storing his mind with fantastic notions, 
and seeking the society of enthusiasts and visionaries. On his return 



174 EXTBA.OKDINABT K)FUIAE DELUSIONS. 

to England in 1605, he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine 
from the University of Oxford, and began to practise as a physician 
in London. 

He soon made himself conspicuous. He latinised his name from 
Robert Fludd into Robertus k Fluctibus, and began the promulgation 
of many strange doctrines. He avowed his belief in the philosopher's 
stone, the water of life, and the universal alkahest ; and maintained 
that there were but two principles of all things, — ^which were, conden- 
sation, the boreal or northern virtue ; and rarefaction, the southern 
or austral virtue. A number of demons, he said, ruled over the human 
frame, whom he arranged in their places in a rhomboid. Every dis- 
ease had its peculiar demon who produced it, which demon could only 
be combated by the aid of the demon whose place was directly oppo- 
site to his in the rhomboidal figure. Of his medical notions we shall 
have further occasion to speak in another part of this book, when we 
consider him in his character as one of the first founders of the mag- 
netic delusion, and its offshoot, animal magnetism, which has created 
so much sensation in our own day. 

As if the doctrines already mentioned were not wild enough, he 
joined the Rosicrucians as soon as they began to make a sensation in 
Europe, and succeeded in raising himself to high consideration among 
them. The fraternity having been violently attacked by several 
German authors, and among others by Libavius, Fludd volunteered 
a reply, and published, in 1616, his defence of the Rosicrucian phi- 
losophy, under the title of the Apologia compendiaria Fratemita- 
tem de Rosea-crace vaspicionis et inf amice maadis aspenam aUiieni. 
This work immediately procured him great renown upon the Conti- 
nent, and he was henceforth looked upon as one of the high-priests 
of the sect. Of so much importance was he considered, that Keppler 
and Gassendi thought it necessary to refute him ; and the latter wrote 
a complete examination of his doctrine. Mersenne also, the friend 
of Descartes, and who had defended that philosopher when accused 
of having joined the Rosicrucians, attacked Dr. h, Fluctibus, as he 
preferred to be called, and shewed the absurdity of the brothers of 
the Rose-cross in general, and of Dr. k Fluctibus in particular. Fluc- 
tibus wrote a long reply, in which he called Mersenne an ignorant 
calumniator, and reiterated that alchymy was a profitable science, 
and the Rosicrucians worthy to be the regenerators of the world. This 
book was published at Frankfort, and was entitled ^mmum £<mwny 
quod est Ma^ioe^ Cabalce, Alchimice, Fratrum B/osea-Crucia verorwn^ et 
adversvs Mersenium Calumniatorem, Besides this, he wrote several 
other works upon alchymy, a second answer to Libavius upon the 
Rosicrucians, and many medical works. He died in London in 1637. 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 175 

After his time there was some diminution of the sect in England. 
They excited but little attention, and made no effort to bring them- 
selves into notice. Occasionally some obscure and almost incompre- 
hensible work made its appearance, to shew the world that the folly 
was not extinguished. Eugenius Philalethes, a noted alchymist, who 
has veiled his real name under this assumed one, translated The Fame 
arid Confession of the Brethren of the Rosie Cross, which was published 
in London in 1652. A few years afterwards, another enthusiast, 
named John Heydon, wrote two works on the subject : the one en- 
titled The Wise Man^s Crown, or the Glory of the Rosie Cross ; and the 
other, The Holy Guide, leading the way t0 unite Art and Nature with 
the Rosie Crosseun covered. Neither of these attracted much notice. 
A third book was somewhat more successful ; it was caUed A new 
Method of Rosicrucian Physic ; by John Heydon, the servant of God 
and the Secretary of Nature, A few extracts will shew the ideas of the 
English Rosicrucians about this period. Its author was an attorney, 
"practising (to use his own words) at Westminster Hall all term 
times as long as he lived, and in the vacations devoting himself to 
alchymical and Rosicrucian meditation." In his preface, caUed by 
him an Apologue for an Epilogue, he enlightens the public upon the 
true history and tenets of his sect. Moses, Elias, and Ezekiel were, 
he says, the most ancient masters of the Rosicrucian philosophy. 
Those few then existing in England and the rest of Europe, were as 
the eyes and ears of the great king of the universe, seeing and hear- 
ing all things ; seraphically illuminated ; companions of the holy com- 
pany of unbodied souls and immortal angels ; turning themselves, 
Proteus-like, into any shape, and having the power of working mira- 
cles. The most pious and abstracted brethren could slack the plague 
in cities, silence the violent winds and tempests, calm the rage of 
the sea and rivers, walk in the air, frustrate the malicious aspect of 
witches, cure all diseases, and turn all metals into gold. He had 
known in his time two famous brethren of the Rosie Cross, named 
Walfourd and Williams, who had worked miracles in his sight, and 
taught him many excellent predictions of astrology and earthquakes. 
"I desired one of these to tell me," says he, "whether my complexion 
were capable of the society of my good genius. * When I see you 
again,' said he (which was when he pleased to come to me, for I knew 
not where to go to him), ' I will tell you.' When I saw him after- 
wards, he said, * You should pray to God ; for a good and holy man 
can offer no greater or more acceptable service to God than the 
oblation of himself — his soul.' He said also, that the good genii 
were the benign eyes of God, running to and fro in the world, and 
with love and pity beholding the innocent endeavours of harmless 



1 76 EXTBAOEDINABY POPULAE DELUSIONS. 

and single-hearted men, ever ready to do them good and to help 
them." 

Hejdon held devoutly true that dogma of the Rosicrucians which 
said that neither eating nor drinking was necessary to men. He 
maintained that any one might exist in the same manner as that sin- 
gular people dwelling near the source of the Ganges, of whom mention 
was made in the travels of his namesake. Sir Christopher Heydon, who 
had no mouths, and therefore could not eat, but lived by the breath 
of their nostrils; except when they took a far journey, and then they 
mended their diet with the smell of flowers. He said that in really 
pure air " there was a fine foreign fatness," with which it was sprink- 
led by the sunbeams, and which was quite sufl5cient for the nourish- 
ment of the generality of mankind. Those who had enormous appetites, 
he had no objection to see take animal food, since they could not do 
without it; but he obstinately insisted that there was no necessity 
why they should eat it. If they put a plaster of nicely-cooked meat 
upon their epigastrium, it would be sufficient for the wants of the 
most robust and voracious I They would by that means let in no 
diseases, as they did at the broad and common gate, the mouth, as 
any one might see by example of drink; for all the while a man sat 
in water, he was never athirst. He had known, he said, many Rosi- 
crucians, who by applying wine in this manner, had fasted for years 
together. In fact, quoth Heydon, we may easily fast all our life, 
though it be three hundred years, without any kind of meat, and so 
cut off all danger of disease. 

This " sage philosopher" further informed his wondering contem- 
poraries that the chiefs of the doctrine always carried about with them 
to their place of meeting their s3rmbol, called the R. C. which was an 
ebony cross, flourished and decked with roses of gold; the cross typi- 
fying Christ's sufferings upon the cross for our sins, and the roses of 
gold the glory and beauty of his Resurrection. This symbol was 
carried alternately to Mecca, Mount Calvary, Mount Sinai, Haran, and 
to three other places, which must have been in mid-air, called Cctsdey 
Apamia, and Chatilateau Virism Caunuch, where the Rosicrucian 
brethren met when they pleased, and made resolution of all their ac- 
tions. They always took their pleasures in one of these places, where 
they resolved all questions of whatsoever had been done, was done, or 
should be done in the world, from the beginning to the end thereof. 
" And these," he concludes, " are the men called Rosicrucians!" 

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, more rational ideas 
took possession of the sect, which still continued to boast of a few 
members. They appear to have considered that contentment was 
the true philosopher's stone, and to have abandoned the insane search 



THE ALCHTMISTS, 177 

for a mere phantom of the imagination. Addison, in The Spectator^* 
gives an account of his conversation with a Bosicrucian ; from which 
it may be inferred that the sect had grown wiser in their deeds, though 
in their talk they were as foolish as ever. " I was once," says he, 
'^ engaged in discourse with a Bosicrucian about the great secret. 
He talked of the secret as of a spirit which lived within an emerald, 
and converted every thing that was near it to the highest perfection 
that it was capable of. ^ It gives a lustre,* says he,^' to the sun, 
^ and water to the diamond. It irradiates every metal, and enriches 
lead with all the properties of gold. It heightens smoke into flame, 
flame into light, and light into glory.' He further added, Hhat a 
single ray of it dissipates pain and care and melancholy from the 
person on whom it falls. In short,' says he, ' its presence naturally 
changes every place into a kind of heaven,' After he had gone on 
for some time in this unintelligible cant, I found that he jumbled 
natural and moral ideas together into the same discourse, and that 
his great secret was nothing else but content." 

Jacob Bohmen. 

It is now time to speak of Jacob Bohmen, who thought he could 
discover the secret of the transmutation of metals in the Bible, and 
who invented a strange heterogeneous doctrine of mingled alchymy 
and religion, and founded upon it the sect of the Aurea-crucians. 
He was bom at Gorlitz, in Upper Lusatia, in 1575,. and followed till 
his thirtieth year the occupation of a shoemaker. In this obscurity 
he remained, with the character of a visionary and a man of unsettled 
mind, until the promulgation of the Bosicrucian philosophy in his 
part of Germany, toward the year 1607 or 1608. From that time 
he began to neglect his leather, and buried his brain under the rub- 
bish of metaphysics. The works of Paracelsus fell into his hands i 
and these, with the reveries of the Bosicrucians, so completely en- 
grossed his attention, that he abandoned his trade altogether, sinking, 
at the same time, from a state of comparative independence into 
poverty and destitution. But he was nothing daunted by the miseries 
and privations of the flesh ; his mind was fixed upon the beings of 
another sphere, and in thought he was already the new apostle of the 
I human race. In the year 1612, after a meditation of four years, he 

i published his first work, entitled Aurora, or the RisiTig of the 

Sun; embodying the ridiculous notions of Paracelsus, and worse 
i confounding the confusion of that writer. The philosopher's stone 

i might, he contended, be discovered by a diligent search of the Old 



• No. 574. Friday, July 30th, 1714. 
12 



A 



178 EXTEA.0KD1NAB.Y POPULAB DELUSIONS. 

aiMl New Testaments, and more especially of the Apocalypse, which 
alone contained all the secrets of alchymy. He contended that the 
divine grace operated by the same rules, and followed the same 
methods, that the divine providence observed in the natural world ; 
and that the minds of men were purged from their vices and cor- 
ruptions in the very same manner that metals were purified from 
their dross, namely, by fire. 

Besides t]}e sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders, he ac- 
knowledged various ranks and orders of demons. He pretended to 
invisibility and absolute chastity. He also said that, if it pleased 
him, he could abstain for years from meat and drink, and all the 
necessities of the body. It is needless, however, to pursue his follies 
any further. He was reprimanded for writing this work by the 
magistrates of Gorlitz, and commanded to leave the pen alone and 
stick to his wax, that his family might not become chargeable to the 
parish. He neglected this good advice, and continued his studies ; 
burning minerals and purifying metals one day, and mystifying the 
Word of God on the next. He afterwards wrote three other works, 
as sublimely ridiculous as the first. The one was entitled MetaRurgia^ 
and has the slight merit of being the least obscure of his compositions. 
Another was called The Temporal Mirror of Eternity ; and the laat 
his Theoaophy revealedy full of allegories and metaphors, 

" All strange and geason. 
Devoid of sense and ordinary reason." 

Bohmen died in 1624, leaving behind him a considerable number 
of admiring disciples. Many of them became, during the seventeenth 
century, as distinguished for absurdity as their master ; amongst whom 
may be mentioned Gifi^theil, Wendenhagen, John Jacob Zimmermann, 
and Abraham Frankenberg. Their heresy rendered them obnoxious 
to the Church of Rome ; and many of them suffered long imprison- 
ment and torture for their faith. One, named Kuhlmann, was burned 
alive at Moscow, in 1684, on a charge of sorcery. B5hmen's works 
were translated into English, and published, many years afterwards, 
by an enthusiast named William Law. 

MORMIUS. 

Peter Mormius, a notorious alchymist and contemporary of Boh- 
men, endeavoured, in 1630, to introduce the Bosicrucian philosophy 
into Holland. He applied to the States-General to grant him a pubUc 
audience, that he might explain the tenets of the sect, and disclose 
a p]^ for rendering Holland the happiest and richest country on the 
earth, by means of the philosopher's stone and the service of the 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 179 

elementary spirits. The States -General wisely resolved to have 
nothing to do with him. He thereupon determined to shame them 
by printing his book, which he did at Leyden the same year. It was 
entitled The Booh of the most Hidden Secrets of Nature y and was 
divided into three parts ; the first treating of ** perpetual motion ;" 
the second of the " transmutation of metals ;" and the third of the 
" universal medicine." He also published some German works upon 
the Bosicrucian philosophy, at Frankfort, in 1617. 

Poetry and romance are deeply indebted to the Rosicrucians for 
many a graceful creation. The literature of England, France, and 
Germany contains hundreds of sweet fictions, whose machinery has 
been borrowed from their day-dreams. The " delicate Ariel" of 
Shakspeare stands pre-eminent among the number. From the same 
source Pope drew the airy tenants of Belinda's dressing-room, in his 
charming Rape of the Loch ; and La Motte Fouqu6, the beautiful 
and capricious water-nymph Undine, around whom he has thrown 
more grace and loveliness, and for whose imaginary woes he has 
excited more sympathy, than ever were bestowed on a supernatural 
being. Sir Walter Scott also endowed the White Lady of Avenel 
with many of the attributes of the undines or water-sprites. German 
romance and lyrical poetry teem with allusions to sylphs, gnomes, 
ujidines, and salamanders ; and the French have not been behind in 
substituting them, in works of fiction, for the more cumbrous mytho- 
logy of Greece and Rome. The sylphs, more especially, have been 
the favourites of the bards, and have become so familiar to the popular 
mind as to be, in a manner, confounded with that other race of ideal 
beings, the fairies, who can boast of an antiquity much more venerable 
in the annals of superstition. Having these obligations to the Rosi- 
crucians, no lover of poetry can wish, however absurd they were, that 
such a sect of philosophers had never existed. ^ 

BOREI. 

Just at the time that Michael Mayer was making known to the 
world the existence of such a body as the Rosicrucians, there was 
born in Italy a man who was afterwards destined to become the most 
conspicuous member of the fraternity. The alchymic mania never 
called forth the ingenuity of a more consummate or more successful 
impostor than Joseph Francis Borri. He was bom in 1616, accord- 
ing to some authorities, and in 1627 according to others, at Milan ; 
where his father, the Signer Bran^ Borri, practised as a physician. 
At the age of sixteen Joseph was sent to finish his education at the 
Jesuits' college in Rome, where he distinguished himself by his ex- 
traordinary memory. He learned every thing to which he applied 



180 EXTBAOBDIVABT P0FT7LAS. DELUSIONS. 

himself with the utmost ease. In the most voluminous works no 
fact was too minute for his retention, and no study was so abstruse 
but that he could master it; but any advantages he might have 
derived from this facility were neutralised by his ungovernable pas- 
sions and his love of turmoil and debauchery. He was involved in 
continual difGiculty, as well with the heads of the collie as with 
the police of Rome, and acquired so bad a character that years could 
not remove it. By the aid of his friends he established himself as a 
physician in Rome, and also obtained some situation in the pope's 
household. In one of his fits of studiousness he grew enamoured of 
alchymy, and determined to devote his energies to the discovery of 
the philosopher's stone. Of unfortunate propensities he had quite 
sufficient, besides this, to bring him to poverty. His pleasures were 
as expensive as his studies, and both were of a nature to destroy his 
health and ruin his fair fame. At the age of thirty-seven he found 
that he could not live by the practice of medicine, and began to look 
about for some other employment. He became, in 1653, private 
secretary to the Marquis di Mirogli, the minister of the Archduke of 
Innspriick at the court of Rome. He continued in this capacity for 
two years ;' leading, however, the same abandoned life as heretofore, 
frequenting the society of gamesters, debauchees, and loose women, 
involving himself in disgraceful street quarrels, and alienating the 
patrons who were desirous to befriend him. 

All at once a sudden change was observed in his conduct. The 
abandoned rake put on the outward sedateness of a philosopher ; the 
scoffing sinner proclaimed that he had forsaken his evil ways, and 
would live thenceforth a model of virtue. To his friends this 
reformation was as pleasing as it was unexpected ; and Bond gave 
obscure hints that it had been brought about by some miraculous 
manifestation of a superior power. He pretended that he held con- 
verse with beneficent spirits ; that the secrets of God and nature 
were revealed to him ; and that he had obtained possession of the 
philosopher's stone. Like his predecessor, Jacob Bohmen, he mixed 
up religious questions with his philosophical jargon, and took mea- 
sures for declaring himself the founder of a new sect. This, at Rome 
itself, and in the very palace of the pope, was a hazardous proceed- 
ing ; and Bond just, awoke to a sense of it in time to save himself 
from the dungeons of the Castle of St. Angelo. He fled to Innspruck, 
where he remained about a year, and then returned to his native dtj 
of Milan. 

The reputation of his great sanctity had gone before him ; and he 
found many persons ready to attach themselves to his fortunes. All 
who were desirous of entering into the new communion took an oath 



TH£ ALCETUiarS. 181 

of povertj, and reliaquialted their poHaesaione for the general good of 
the fraternity. Boni told them that he had received from the arch- 
angel Miohiiel a heavenlj Bword, upon the hilt of which were engiATen 
the names of the seven celestial intelligences. " Whoever shall 
refuse," said he, " to enter into my new aheepfold shall be destroyed 
by the papal armies, of whom God has predestined me to be the 
diief. To those who follow me all joy shall be granted. I shall soon 



bring my chemical studies to a happy conclusion by the discovery of 
the philosopher's stone, and by this means we sbaU all have as much 
gold as we desire. I am assured of the aid of the anf^o hosts, and 
more especially of the archangel Michael's. When I began to walk 
in the way of the spirit, 1 had a viaion of the night, and wad assured 



182 EXTBAOBDINART POPULAK DELUSIONS. 

by an angelic voice that I should become a prophet. In sign of it I 
saw a palm-tree, surrounded with all the glory of paradise. The 
angels come to me whenever I call, and reveal to me all the secrets 
of the universe. The sylphs and elementary spirits obey me, and fly 
to the uttermost ends of the world to serve me, and those whom I 
delight to honour.'* By force of continually repeating such stories 
as these, Borri soon found himself at the head of a very considerable 
number of adherents. As he figures in these pages as an alchymist, 
and not as a religious sectarian, it will be unnecessary to repeat the 
doctrines which he taught with regard to some of the dogmas of the 
Church of Rome, and which exposed him to the fierce resentment of 
the papal authority. They were to the full as ridiculous as his philo- 
sophical pretensions. As the number of his followers increased, he 
appears to have cherished the idea of becoming one day a new Ma- 
homet, and of founding, in his native city of Milan, a monarchy and 
religion of which he should be the king and the prophet. He had 
taken measures, in the year 1658, for seizing the guards at all the 
gates of that city, and formally declaring himself the monarch of the 
Milanese. Just as he thought the plan ripe for execution, it was 
discovered. . Twenty of his followers were arrested, and he himself 
managed, with the utmost diflficulty, to escape to the neutral terri- 
tory of Switzerland, where the papal displeasure could not reach him. 

The trial of his followers commenced forthwith, and the whole of 
them were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Borri's trial 
proceeded in his absence, and lasted for upwards of two years. He 
was condemned to death as a heretic and sorcerer in 1661, and was 
burned in effigy in Rome by the common hangman. 

Borri, in the mean time, lived quietly in Switzerland, indulging 
himself in railing at the Inquisition and its proceedings. He after- 
wards went to Strasbourg, intending to fix his residence in that town. 
He was received with great cordiality, as a man persecuted for his 
religious opinions, and withal a great alchymist. He found that 
sphere too narrow for his aspiring genius, and retired in the same 
year to the more wealthy city of Amsterdam. He there hired a mag- 
nificent house, established an equipage which eclipsed in brilliancy 
those of the richest merchants, and assumed the title of Excellency. 
Where he got the money to live in this expensive style was long a 
secret : the adepts in alchymy easily explained it, after their fashion. 
Sensible people were of opinion that he had come by it in a less 
wonderful manner ; for it was remembered that among his unfortu- 
nate disciples in Milan, there were many rich men, who, in conformity 
with one of the fundamental rules of the sect, had given up all their 
earthly wealth into the hands of their founder. In whatever manner 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 183 

the money was obtained, Borri spent it in Holland with an unsparing 
hand, and was looked up to by the people with no little respect and 
veneration. He performed several able cures, and increased his re- 
putation so much that he was vaunted as a prodigy. He continued 
diligently the operations of alchymy, and was in daily expectation 
that he should succeed in turning the inferior metals into gold. This 
hope never abandoned him, even in the worst extremity of his for- 
tunes J and in his prosperity it led him into the most foolish expenses : 
but he could not long continue to live so magnificently upon the funds 
he had brought from Italy ; and the philosopher's stone, though it 
promised all for the wants of the morrow, never brought any thing for 
the necessities of to-day. He was obliged in a few months to re- 
trench, by giving up his large house, his gilded coach and valuable 
blood-horses, his liveried domestics, and his luxurious entertainments. 
With this diminution of splendour came a diminution of renown. His 
cures did not appear so miraculous, when he went out on foot to per- 
form them, as they had seemed when " his Excellency" had driven to 
a poor man's door in his carriage with six horses. He sank from a 
prodigy into an ordinary man. His great friends shewed him the 
cold shoulder, and his humble flatterers carried their incense to some 
other shrine. Borri now thought it high time to change his quarters. 
With this view he borrowed money wherever he could get it, and suc- 
ceeded in obtaining two hundred thousand florins from a merchant 
named Be Meer, to aid, as he said, in discovering the water of life. 
He also obtained six diamonds of great value, on pretence that he 
could remove the flaws from them without diminishing their weight. 
With this booty he stole away secretly by night, and proceeded to 
Hamburgh. 

On his arrival in that city, he found the celebrated Christina, the 
ex-queen of Sweden. He procured an introduction to her, and re- 
quested her patronage in his endeavour to discover the ph'losopher's 
stone. She gave him some encouragement; but Borri, fearing that 
the merchants of Amsterdam, who had connexions in Hamburgh, 
might expose his delinquencies if he remained in the latter city, passed 
over to Copenhagen, and sought the protection of Frederick III., the 
king of Denmark. 

This prince was a firm believer in the transmutation of metals. 
Being in want of money, he readily listened to the plans of an adven- 
turer who had both eloquence and ability to recommend him. He 
provided Borri with the means to make experiments, and took a great 
interest in the progress of his operations. He expected every month 
to possess riches that would buy Peru; and, when he was disappointed, 
accepted patiently the excuses of Borri, who, upon every failure, was 



184 EXTBAOEDIKABY FOFTTL^B. DELUSIONS. 

always ready with some plausible explanation. He became in time 
much attached to him ; and defended him from the jealous attacks of 
his courtiers, and the indignation of those who were grieved to see 
their monarch the easy dupe of a charlatan. Borri endeavoured, by 
every means in his power, to find aliment for this good opinion. His 
knowledge of medicine was useful to him in this respect, and often 
stood between him and disgrace. He lived six years in this manner 
at the court of Frederick ; but that monarch dying in 1670 he was 
left without a protector. 

As he had made more enemies than friends in Copenhagen, and 
had nothing to hope from the succeeding sovereign, he sought an 
asylum in another country. He went first to Saxony; but met so 
little encouragement, and encountered so much danger from the 
emissaries of the Inquisition, that he did not remain there many 
months. . Anticipating nothing but persecution in every country that 
acknowledged the spiritual authority of the pope, he appears to have 
taken the resolution to dwell in Turkey, and turn Mussulman. On 
his arrival at the Hungarian frontier, on his way to Constantinople, 
he was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the conspiracy of 
the Counts Nadasdi and Frangipani, which had just been discovered. 
In vain he protested his innocence, and divulged his real name and 
profession. He was detained in prison, and a letter despatched to the 
Emperor Leopold, to know what should be done with him. The star 
of his fortunes was on the decline. The letter reached Leopold at an 
unlucky moment. The pope's nuncio was closeted with his majesty; 
and he no sooner heard the name of Joseph Francis Borri, than he de- 
manded him as a prisoner of the Holy See. The request was complied 
with ; and Borri, closely manacled, was sent under an escort of soldiers 
to the prison of the Inquisition at Rome. He was too much of an 
impostor to be deeply tinged with fanaticism, and was not unwilling 
to make a public recantation of his heresies, if he could thereby save 
his life. When the proposition was made to him, he accepted it 
with eagerness. His punishment was to be commuted into the hardly 
less severe one of perpetual imprisonment; but he was too happy to 
escape the clutch of the executioner at any price, and he made the 
am&nde honorcMe in face of the assembled multitudes of Rome on the 
27th of October 1672. He was then transferred to the prisons of the 
Castle of St. Angelo, where he remained till his death, twenty-three 
years afterwards. It is said that, towards the close of his life, con- 
siderable indulgence was granted him; that he was allowed to have a 
laboratory, and to cheer the solitude of his dungeon by searching for 
the philosopher's stone. Queen Christina, during her residence at 
Rome, frequently visited the old man, to converse with him upon 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 185 

chemistry and the doctrines of the Rosicrucians. She even obtained 
permission that he should leave his prison occasionally for a day or 
two, and reside in her palace, she being responsible for hie return to 
captivity. She encouraged him to search for the great secret of the 
alchymists, and provided him with money for the purpose. It may 
well be supposed that Borri benefited most by this acquaintance, and 
that Christina got nothing but experience. It is not sure that she 
gained even that; for until her dying day she was convinced of the 
possibility of finding the philosopher's stone, and ready to assist any 
adventurer either zealous or impudent enough to pretend to it. 

After Borri had been about eleven years in confinement, a small 
volume was published at Cologne, entitled The Key €f the Cabinet 
of the Chevalier Joseph Francis Borri, in which are corUained many 
curious Letters upon Chemistry and other Sciences, written by him, 
together with a Memoir of his Life, This book contained a complete 
exposition of the Roiicrucian philosophy, and afforded materials to 
the Abb6 de Villars for his interesting Count de Gabatis, which excited 
so much attention at the close of the seventeenth century. 

Borri lingered in the prison of St. Angelo till 1695, when he died, 
in his eightieth year. Besides The Key of the Cabinet, ymtten ori- 
ginally in Copenhagen, in 1666, for the edification of King Frederick 
III., he published a work upon alchymy and the secret sciences, 
imder the title of The Mission of Romulus to the Romans, 

INPERIOR ALCHYMISTS OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY. 

Besides the pretenders to the philosopher's stone whose lives have 
been already narrated, this and the preceding century produced a great 
number of writers, who inundated literature with their books upon 
the subject. In fact, most of the learned men of that age had some 
faith in it. Van Helmont, Borrichius, Kircher, Boerhaave, and a 
score of others, though not pTofessed alchymists, were fond of the 
science, and countenanced its professors. Helvetius, the grandfather 
of the celebrated philosopher of the same name, asserts that he saw 
an inferior metal turned into gold by a stranger, at the Hague, in 1666. 
He says, that, sitting one day in his study, a man, who was dressed 
as a respectable burgher of North Holland, and very modest and simple 
in his appearance, called upon him, with the intention of dispelling 
his doubts relative to the philosopher's stone. He asked Helvetius 
if he thought he should know that rare gem if he saw it. To which 
Helvetius replied, that he certainly should not. The burgher imme- 
diately drew from his pocket a small ivory box, containing three 
pieces of metal, of the colour of brimstone, and extremely heavy; and 



186 EXTAAOEDIVABT P0PX7LAS DELUSIONS. 

assured Helvetius, that of them he could make as much as twenty 
tons of gold. Helvetius informs us, that he examined them very 
attentively ; and seeing that they were very brittle, he took the op- 
portunity to scrape off a small portion with his thumb-nail. He 
then returned them to the stranger, with an entreaty that he would 
perform the process of transmutation before him. The stranger re- 
plied, that he was not allowed to do so, and went away. After his 
departure, Helvetius procured a crucible and a portion of lead, into 
which, when in a state of fusion, he threw the stolen grain from the 
philosopher's stone. He was disappointed to find that the grain eva- 
porated altogether, leaving the lead in its original state. 

Some weeks afterwards, when he had almost forgotten the subject, 
he received another visit from the stranger. He again entreated him 
to explain the processes by which he pretended to transmute lead. 
The stranger at last consented, and informed him, that one grain was 
sufficient ; but that it was necessary to envelope it in a ball of wax 
before throwing it on the molten metal ; otherwise its extreme vo- 
latility would cause it to go off in vapour. They tried the experi^ 
ment, and succeeded to their heart's content. Helvetius repeated 
the experiment alone, and converted six ounces of lead into very pure 
gold. 

The fame of this event spread all over the Hague, and all the 
notable persons of the town flocked to the study of Helvetius to con" 
vince themselves of the fact. Helvetius performed the experiment 
again, in the presence of the Prince of Orange, and several times 
afterwards, until he exhausted the whole of the powder he had re- 
ceived from the stranger, from whom it is necessary to state, he 
never received another visit ; nor did he ever discover his name or 
condition. In the following year, Helvetius published his Ooldeni 
Ckdf* in which he detailed the above circumstances. 

About the same time, the celebrated Father Kircher published 
his Sfuhterranean World, in which he called the alchymists a congre- 
gation of knaves and impostors, and their science a delusion. He 
admitted that he had himself been a diligent labourer in the field, 
and had only come to this conclusion after mature consideration and 
repeated fruitless experiments. All the alchjrmists were in arms im- 
mediately, to refute this formidable antagonist. One Solomon de 
Blauenstein was the first to grapple with him, and attempted to convict 
him of wilful misrepresentation, by recalling to his memory the trans- 
mutations by Sendivogius, before the Emperor Frederick III. and the 
Elector of Mayence, all performed within a recent period.' Zwelfer 

• " Vitulus Aureus quern MunduB adorat et orat, in quo tractatur de natnne miracnlo 
tnmBmntandi metalla." HagcB^ 1667. 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 187 

and Glauber also entered into the dispute, and attributed the enmity 
of Father Kircher to spite and jealousy against adepts who had been 
more successful than himself. 

It was also pretended that Gustavus Adolphus transmuted a 
quantity of quicksilver into pure gold. The learned Borrichius re- 
lates, that he saw coins which had been struck of this gold ; and 
Lenglet du Fresnoy deposes to the same circumstance. In the Tra- 
vds of Mtytwonis the story is told in the following manner : ** A mer- 
chant of Lubeck, who carried on but little trade, but who knew how 
to change lead into very good gold, gave the King of Sweden a lingot 
which he had made, weighing at least, one himdred pounds. The 
king immediately caused it to be coined into ducats ; and because 
he knew positively that its origin was such as had been stated to 
him, he had his own arms graven upon the one side, and emblematical 
figures of Mercury and Venus on the other. I (continued Monconis) 
have one of these ducats in my possession ; and was credibly in- 
formed that, after the death of the Lubeck merchant, who had never 
appeared very rich, a sum of no less than one million seven hundred 
thousand crowns was found in his coffers."* 

Such stories as these, confidently related by men high in station, 
tended to keep up the infatuation of the alchymists in every country 
of Europe. It is astonishing to see the number of works which were 
written upon the subject during the seventeenth century alone, and 
the number of clever men who sacrificed themselves to the delusion. 
Gabriel de Castaigne, a monk of the order of St. Francis, attracted so 
much notice in the reign of Louis XIII., that that monarch secured 
him in his household, and made him his Grand Almoner. He pre- 
tended to find the elixir of life, and Louis expected by his means to 
have enjoyed the crown for a century. Van Helmont also pretended 
to have once performed with success the process of transmuting quick- 
silver, and was in consequence invited by the Emperor Rudolph II. 
to Ax his residence at the court of Vienna. Glauber, the inventor of 
the salts which still bear his name, and who practised as a physician 
at Amsterdam about the middle of the seventeenth century, estab- 
lished a public school in that city for the study of alchymy, and gave 
lectures himself upon the science. John Joachim Becher of Spire 
acquired great reputation at the same period, and was convinced that 
much gold might be made out of flint-stones by a peculiar process, 
and the aid of that grand and incomprehensible substance the philo- 
sopher's stone. He made a proposition to the Emperor Leopold of 
Austria to aid him in these experiments ; but the hope of success was 
too remote^ and the present expense too great, to tempt that mon- 

* Voyages de Monconis, tome ii. p. 379. 



188 XXTBAOBDINABT FOPXTLAB DELUSIONS. 

archj and he therefore gave Becher much of his praise, but none of 
his money. Becher afterwards tried the States-General of Holland 
with no better success. 

With regard to the innumerable tricks by which impostors per- 
suaded the world that they had succeeded in making gold, and of 
which so many stories were current about this period, a very satisfac- 
tory report was read by M. (Jeoffroy the elder, at the sitting of the 
Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, on the 15th of April, 1722. As 
it relates principally to the alchymic cheats of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries, the following abridgment of it may not be out 
of place in this portion of our history. The instances of successful 
transmutation were so numerous, and apparently so well authenti- 
cated, that nothing short of so able an exposure as that of M. Geoffroy 
could disabuse the public mind. The trick to which they oftenest 
had recourse was to use a double-bottomed crucible, the under sur- 
face being of iron or copper, and the upper one of wax, painted to 
resemble the same metal. Between the two they placed as much gold 
or silver dust as was necessary for their purpose. They then put in 
their lead, quicksilver, or other ingredients, and placed their pot upon 
the fire. Of course, when the experiment was concluded, they never 
failed to find a lump of gold at the bottom. The same result was 
produced in many other ways. Some of them used a hollow wand, 
filled with gold or silver dust, and stopped at the ends with wax or 
butter. With this they stirred the boiling metal in their crucibles, 
taking care to accompany the operation with many ceremonies, to 
divert attention from the real purpose of the manoeuvre. They also 
drilled holes in lumps of lead, into which they poured molten gold, 
and carefully closed the aperture with the original metal. Sometimes 
they washed a piece of gold with quicksilver. When in this state, 
they found no difficulty in palming it off upon the uninitiated as an 
inferior metal, and very easily transmuted it into fine sonorous gold 
again with the aid of a little aquafortis. 

Others imposed by means of nails, half iron and half gold or silver. 
They pretended that they really transmuted the precious half from 
iron, by dipping it in a strong alcohol. M. Geoffroy produced several 
of these nails to the Academy of Sciences, and shewed how nicely the 
two parts were soldered together. The golden or silver half was painted 
black to resemble iron, and the colour immediately disappeared when 
the nail was dipped into aquafortis. A nail of this description was, 
for a long time, in the cabinet of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Such 
also, said M. Geoffroy, was the knife presented by a monk to Queen 
Elizabeth of England ; the blade of which was half gold and half steel. 
Nothing at one time was more common than to see coins, half gold 



THE ALCHTICISTS. 189 

and half silver, which had been operated upcm bj alchymists, for the 
same purposes of trickery. In fact, says M. Geoffroy, in concluding 
his long report, there is every reason to believe that all the famous 
histories which have been handed down to us about the transmuta- 
tion of metals into gold or silver, by means of the powder of projection 
or philosophical elixirs, are founded upon some successful deception 
of the kind above narrated. These pretended philosophers invariably 
disappeared after the first or second experiment, or their powders or 
elixirs have failed to produce their effect, either because attention 
being excited they have found no opportunity to renew the trick 
without being discovered, or because they have not had sufficient 
gold dust for more than one trial. 

The disinterestedness of these would-be philosophers looked, at 
first sight, extremely imposing. Instances were not rare in which 
they generously abandoned all the profits of their transmutations — 
even the honour of the discovery. But this apparent disinterested- 
ness was one of the most cunning of their manoeuvres. It served to 
keep up the popular expectation ; it seemed to shew the possibility of 
discovering the philosopher*)? stone, and provided the means of future 
advantages, which they were never slow to lay hold of — such as 
entrances into royal households, maintenance at the public expense, 
and gifts from ambitious potentates, too greedy after the gold they 
BO easily promised. « 

It now only remains to trace the progress of the delusion from the 
commencement of the eighteenth century until the present day. It 
will be seen that, until a very recent period, there were but slight 
signs of a rei!um to reason. 

Jean Delisle. 

In the year 1705, there was much talk in France of a b&cksmith, 
named Delisle, who had discovered the philosopher's stone, and who 
went about the countiy turning lead into gold. He was a native of 
Provence, from which place his fame soon spread to the capital. His 
early life is involved in obscurity ; but Lenglet du Fresnoy has indus- 
triously collected some particulars of his later career, which possess 
considerable interest. He was a man without any education, and 
had been servant in his youth to an alchymist, from whom he learned 
many of the tricks of the fraternity. The name of his master has 
never been discovered ; but it is pretended that he rendered himself 
in some manner obnoxious to the government of Louis XIY., and 
was obliged, in consequence, to take refuge in Switzerland. Delisle 
accompanied him as far as Savoy, and there, it is said, set upon him 
in a solitary mountain-pass, and murdered and robbed him. He then 



190 EXTEAOBDINABT FOFULAB, DELUSIONS. 

disguised himself as a pilgrim, and returned to France. At a lonely 
inn, by the road-side, where he stopped for the night, he became ac- 
quainted with a woman, named Aluys ; and so sudden a passion was 
enkindled betwixt them, that she consented to leave all, follow him, 
and share his good or evil fortune wherever he went. They lived 
together for ^Ye or six years in Provence, without exciting any atten- 
tion, apparently possessed of a decent independence. At last, in 1706, 
it was given out that he was the possessor of the philosopher's stone ; 
and people from far and near came flocking to his residence, at the 
Gh&teau de la Palu, at Sylanez, near Barjaumont, to witness the 
wealth he could make out of pumps and fire-shovels. The following 
account of his operations is given in a letter addressed by M. de 
Cerisy, the Prior of Oh&teauneuf , in the Diocese of Biez, in Provence, 
to the Vicar of St. Jacques du Hautpas, at Paris, and dated the 18th 
of November, 1706 : 

'^ I have something to relate to you, my dear cousin, which will 
be interesting to you and your friends. The philosopher's stone, 
which so many persons have looked upon as a chimera, is at last 
found. It is a man named Delisle, of the parish of Sylanez, and 
residing within a quarter of a league of me, that has discovered this 
great secret. He turns lead into gold, and iron into silver, by merely 
heating these metals red hot, and pouring upon them in that state 
some oil and powder he is possessed of ; so that it would not be im- 
possible for any man to make a million a day, if he had sufficient of 
this wondrous mixture. Some of the pale gold which he had made 
in this manner, he sent to the jewellers of Lyons, to have their opinion 
on its quality. He also, sold twenty pounds weight of it to a merchant 
of Digne, named Taxis. All the jewellers say they never saw suck 
fine gold in their lives. He makes nails, part gold, part iron, and 
part silv&r. He promised to give me one of them, in a long con- 
versation which I had with him the other day, by order of the Bishop 
of Sen^s, who saw his operations with his own eyes, and detailed ail 
the circumstances to me. 

^' The Baron and Baroness de Rheinwald shewed me a lingot of 
gold made out of pewter before their eyes by M. Delisle. My brother- 
in-law Sauveur, who has wasted fifty years of his life in this great 
study, brought me the other day a nail which he had seen changed 
into gold by Delisle, and fully convinced me that all his previous 
experiments were founded on an erroneous principle. This excellent 
workman received, a short time ago, a very kind letter from the 
superintendent of the royal household, which I read. He offered to 
use all his influence with the ministers to prevent any attempts upon 
his liberty, which has twice been attacked by the agents of govern- 



THE ALCHTMI8TS. 191 

ment. It is believed that the oil he makes use of, is gold or silver 
reduced to that state. He leaves it for a long time exposed to the 
rays of the sun. He told me tKat it generally took him six months 
to make all his preparations. I told him that, apparently, the king 
wanted to see him. He replied that he could not exercise his art in 
every place, as a certain climate and temperature were absolutely 
necessary to his success. The truth is, that this man appears to have 
no ambition. He only keeps two horses and two men-servants. Be- 
sides, he loves his liberty, has no politeness, and speaks very bad 
French ; but his judgment seems to be solid. He was formerly no 
more than a blacksmith, but excelled in that trade without having 
been taught it. All the great lords and seigneurs from far and near 
come to visit him, and pay such court to him, that it seems more 
like idolatry than any thing else. Happy would France be if this man 
would discover his secret to the king, to whom the superintendent 
has already sent some lingots ! But the happitiess is too great to be 
hoped for ; for I fear that the workman and his secret will expire 
together. There is no doubt that this discovery will make a great 
noise in the kingdom, unless the character of the man, which I have 
just depicted to you, prevent it. At all events, posterity will hear 
of him." 

In another letter to the same person, dated the 27th of January 
1707, M. de Cerisy says, " My dear cousin, I spoke to you in my last 
letter of the famous alchymist of Provence, M. Delisle. A good deal 
of that was only hearsay, but now I am enabled to speak from my 
own experience. I have in my possession a nail, half iron and half 
silver, which I made myself. That great and admirable workman 
also bestowed a still greater privilege upon me — he allowed me turn 
a piece of lead which I had brought with me into pure gold, by 
means of his wonderful oil and powder. All the country have their 
eyes upon this gentleman ; some deny loudly, others are incredulous ; 
but those who have seen acknowledge the truth. I have read the 
passport that has been sent to him from court, with orders that he 
should present himself at Paris early in the spring. He told me that 
he would go willingly, and that it was himself who fixed the spring 
for his departure ; as he wanted to collect his materials, in order 
that, immediately on his introduction to the kiag, he might make an 
experiment worthy of his majesty, by converting a large quantity of 
lead into the finest gold. I sincerely hope that he will not allow 
his secret to die with him, but that he will communicate it to the 
king. As I had the honour to dine with him on Thursday last, the 
20th of this month, being seated at his side, I told him in a whisper 
that he could, if he Uked, humble all the enemies of France. He did 



192 XXTKAORDINAAT FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

not deny it, but began to smile. In fact, this man is the miracle of 
art. Sometimes he employs the oil and powder mixed, sometimes 
the powder only ; but in so small a quantity that, when the lingot 
which I made was rubbed all over with it, it did not shew at all." 

This soft-headed priest was by no means the only person in the 
neighbourhood who lost his wits in hopes of the boundless wealth 
held out by this clever impostor. Another priest, named De Lions, 
a chanter in the cathedral of Grenoble, writing on the 30th January 
1707, says : '^ M. Mesnard, the curate of Montier, has written to me, 
stating that there is a man, about thirty-five years of age, named 
Delisle, who turns lead and iron into gold and silver ; and that this 
transmutation is so veritable and so true, that the goldsmiths affirm 
that his gold and silver are the purest and finest they ever saw. For 
five years this man was looked upon as a madman or a cheat ; but 
the public mind is now disabused with respect to him. He now re- 
sides with M. de la Palu, at the chateau of the same name. M. de la 
Palu is not very easy in his circumstances, and wants money to por- 
tion his daughters, who have remained single till middle age, no man 
being willing to take them without a dowry. M. Delisle has promised 
to make them the richest girls in the province before he goes to court, 
having been sent for by the king. He has asked for a little time be- 
fore his departure, in order that he may collect powder enough to 
make several quintals of gold before the eyes of his majesty, to whom 
he intends to present them. The principal matter of his wonderful 
powder is composed of simples, principally the herbs Lunaria major 
and minor. There is a good deal of the first planted by him in the 
gardens of La Palu ; and he gets the other from the mountains that 
stretch about two leagues from Montier. What I tell you now is not 
a mere story invented for your diversion : M. Mesnard can bring for- 
ward many witnesses to its truth ; among others, the Bishop of Sen6s, 
who saw these surprising operations performed; and M. de^Cerisy, 
whom you know well. Delisle transmutes his metals in public. He 
rubs the lead or iron with his powder, and puts it over burning char- 
coal. In a short time it changes colour ; the lead becomes yellow, 
and is found to be converted into excellent gold ; the iron becomes 
white, and is found to be pure silver. Delisle is altogether an illite- 
rate person. M. de St. Auban endeavoured to teach him to read and 
write, but he profited very little by his lessons. He is unpolite, fan- 
tastic, and a dreamer, and acts by fits and starts.'* 

Delisle, it would appear, was afraid of venturing to Paris. He 
knew that his sleight of hand would be too narrowly watched in the 
royal presence ; and upon some pretence or other he delayed the 
journey for more than two years. Desmarets, the Minister of Finance 



THE ALCHIIOSTS. 193 

to Louis XIV,, thinking the "philosopher" dreaded foul play, twice 
sent him a safe conduct under the king's seal; but Delisle still refused. 
Upon this, Besmarets wrote to the Bishop of Senis for his real opinion 
as to these famous transmutations. The following was the answer of 
that prelate : 

" Copy of a report addressed to M. , Desmarets, Comptroller- 
Gteneral of the Finances to His Majesty Louis XIV., by 
the Bishop of Sen6s, dated March 1709. 

" Sir, — A twelremonth ago, or a little more, I expressed to you 
my joy at hearing of your elevation to the ministry ; I have now the 
honour to write you my opinion of the Sieur Delisle, who has been 
working at the transmutation of metals in my diocese. I have, dur- 
ing the last two years, spoken of him several times to the Count de 
Pontchartrain, because he asked me ; but I have not written to you, 
sir, or to M. de Chamillart, because you neither of you requested my 
opinion upon the subject. Now, however, that you have given me 
to understand that you wish to know my sentiments on the matter, 
I will unfold myself to you in all sincerity, for the interests of the 
king and the glory of your ministry. 

"There are two things about the Sieur Delisle which, in my 
opinion, should be examined without prejudice : the one relates to 
his secret ; the other, to his person ; that is to say, whether his trans- 
mutations are real, and whether his conduct has been regular. As 
regards the secret of the philosopher's stone, I deemed it impossible, 
for a long time ; and for more than three years I was more mistrust- 
ful of the pretensions of this Sieur Delisle than of any other person. 
During this period I afforded him no countenance ; I even aided a 
person, who was highly recommended to me by an influential family 
of this province, to prosecute Delisle for some offence or other which 
it was alleged he had committed. But this person, in his anger 
against him, having told me that he had himself been several times 
the bearer of gold and silver to the goldsmiths of Nice, Aix, and 
Avignon, which had been transmuted by Delisle from lead and iron, 
I began to waver a little in my opinions respecting him. I afterwards 
met Delisle at the house of one of my friends. To please me, the 
family asked Delisle to operate before me, to which he immediately 
consented. I offered, him some iron nails, which he changed into 
silver in the chimney-place before six or seven credible witnesses. I 
took the nails thus transmuted, and sent them by my almoner to Im- 
bert, the jeweller of Aix, who, having subjected them to the neces- 
sary trial, returned them to me, saying they were very good silver. 
Still, however, I was not quite satisfied. M. de Pontchartrain hav- 

13 



194 EXTRA-ORDINAEY POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

ing hinted to me, two years previously, that I should do a thing 
agreeable to his majesty if I examined into this business of Delisle, 
I resolved to do so now. I therefore summoned the alchymist to 
come to me at Castellane. He came ; and I had him escorted by 
eight or ten vigilant men, to whom I had given notice to watch his 
hands strictly. Before all of us he changed two pieces of lead into 
gold and silver. I sent them both to M. de Pontchartrain ; and he 
afterwards informed me by a letter, now lying before me, that he had 
shewn them to the most experienced goldsmiths of Paris, who unani- 
mously pronounced them to be gold and silver of the very purest 
quality, and without alloy. My former bad opinion of Delisle was 
now indeed shaken. It was much more so when he performed trans- 
mutation five or six times before me at Sen6s, and made me perform 
it myself before him without his putting his hand to any thing. You 
have seen, sir, the letter of my nephew, the P6re Berard, of the Ora- 
toire at Paris, on the experiment that he performed at Castellane, 
and the truth of which I hereby attest. Another nephew of mine, 
the Sieur Bourget, who was here three weeks ago, performed the same 
experiment in my presence, and will detail all the circumstances to 
you personally at Paris. A hundred persons in my diocese have been 
witnesses of these things. I confess to you, sir, that, after the testi- 
mony of so many spectators and so many goldsmiths, and after the 
repeatedly successful experiments that I saw performed, aU my pre- 
judices vanished. My reason was convinced by my eyes ; and the 
phantoms of impossibility which I had conjured up were dissipated 
by the work of my own hands. 

" It now only remains for me to speak to you on the subject of 
his person and conduct. Three suspicions have been excited against 
him : the first, that he was implicated in some criminal proceeding 
at Cisteron, and that he falsified the corn of the realm ; the second, 
that the king sent him two safe-conducts without effect ; and the 
third, that he still delays going to court to operate before the king. 
You may see, sir, that I do not hide or avoid any thing. As regards 
the business at Cisteron, the Sieur Delisle has repeatedly assured me 
that there was nothing against him which could reasonably draw him 
within the pale of justice, and that he had never carried on any call- 
ing injurious to the king's service. It was true that, six or seven 
years ago, he had been to Cisteron to gather herbs necessary for his 
powder, and that he had lodged at the house of one Pelouse, whom 
he thought an honest man. Pelouse was accused of clipping Louis- 
d'ors ; and as he had lodged with him, he was suspected of being his 
accomplice. This mere suspicion, without any proof whatever, had 
caused him to be condemned for contimiacy ; a common case enough 



THS AIiCHYHISTS. 195 

with judges, who always proceed with much rigour against those, who 
are absent. During my own sojourn at Aix, it was well known that 
a man, named Andr6 Aluys, had spread about reports injurious to 
the character of Delisie, because he hoped thereby to avoid paying 
him a sum of forty Louis that he owed him. But permit me, sir, to 
go further, and to add that, even if there were well-founded suspi- 
cions against Delisle, we should look with some little indulgence on 
the faults of a man who possesses a secret so useful to the state. As 
regards the two safe-conducts sent him by the king, I think I can 
answer certainly that it was through no fault of his that he paid so 
little attention to them. His year, strictly speaking, consists only 
of the four summer months ; and when by any means he is prevented 
from making the proper use of them, he loses a whole year. Thus 
the first safe-conduct became useless by the irruption of the Duke of 
Savoy in 1707 and the second had hardly been obtained, at the end 
of June 1708, when the said Delisle was insulted by a party of armed 
men, pretending to act under the authority of the Count de Grignan, 
to whom he wrote several letters of complaint, without receiving any 
answer, or promise that his safety would be attended to. What I 
have now told you, sir, removes the third objection, and is the reason 
why, at the present time, he cannot go to Paris to the king, in fulfil* 
ment of his promises made two years ago. Two, or even three, sum- 
mers have been lost to him, owing to the continual inquietude he 
has laboured under. He has, in consequence, been unable to work, 
and has not collected a sufi^cient quantity of his oil and powder, or 
brought what he has got to the necessary degree of perfection. For 
this reason also he could not give the Sieur de Bourget the portion 
he promised him for your inspection. If the other day he changed 
some lead into gold with a few grains of his powder, they were 
assuredly all he had; for he told me that such was the fact long 
before he knew my nephew was coming. Even if he had preserved 
this small quantity to operate before the king, I am sure that, on 
second thoughts, he would never have adventured with so little; 
because the slightest obstacles in the metals (their being too hard or 
too soft, which is only discovered in operating,) would have caused 
him to be looked upon as an impostor, if, in case his first powder 
had proved ineffectual, he had not been possessed of more to renew 
the experiment and surmount the difficulty. 

" Permit me, sir, in conclusion, to repeat, that such an artist as 
this should not be driven to the last extremity, nor forced to seek an 
asylum offered to him in other countries, but which he has despised, 
as much from his own inclinations as from the advice I have given 
him. You risk nothing in giving him a little time, and in hurrying 



196 EXTBAOBDINABT FOFULAK DELUSIONS. 

him you may lose a great deal. The genuineness of his gold can no 
longer be doubted, after the testimony of so many jewellers of Aix, 
Lyons, and Paris in its favour. As it is not his fetult that the pre- 
vious safe-conducts sent to him have been of no service, it will be 
necessary to send him another; for the success of which I will be 
answerable, if you will confide the matter to me, and trust to my 
zeal for the service of his majesty, to whom I pray you to commu- 
nicate this letter, that I may be spared the just reproaches he might 
one day heap upon me if he remained ignorant of the facts I have 
now written to you. Assure him, if you please, that, if you send me 
such a safe-conduct, I will oblige the Sieur Delisle to depose with me 
such precious pledges of his fidelity as shall enable me to be respon- 
sible myself to the king. These are my sentiments, and I submit 
them to your superior knowledge ; and have the honour to remain, 
with much respect, Ac. » ^ j^^^ 3^^^^^ ^, g^^^^ 

" To M. Besmarets, Minister of State, and 
Comptroller-General of the Finances, at Paris." 

That Delisle was no ordinary impostor, but a man of consummate 
cunning and address, is very evident from this letter. The bishop 
was fairly taken in by his clever legerdemain, and when once his 
first distrust was conquered, appeared as anxious to deceive himself 
as even Delisle could have wished. His faith was so abundant that 
he made the case of his prot^g^ his own, and would not suffer the 
breath of suspicion to be directed against him. Both Louis and his 
minister appear to have been dazzled by the brilliant hopes he had 
excited, and a third pass, or safe-conduct, was immediately sent to 
the alchymist, with a command from the king that he should forth- 
with present himself at Versailles, and make public trial of his oil 
and powder. But this did not suit the plans of Delisle. In the pro- 
vinces he was regarded as a man of no small importance ; the servile 
flattery that awaited him wherever he went was so grateful to his 
mind that he could not willingly relinquish it, and run upon certain 
detection at the court of the monarch. Upon one pretext or another 
he delayed his journey, notwithstanding the earnest solicitations of 
his good friend the bishop. The latter had given his word to the mi- 
nister, and pledged his honour that he would induce Delisle to go, 
and he began to be alarmed when he found he could not subdue the 
obstinacy of that individual. For more than two years he continued 
to remonstrate with him, and was always met by some excuse, that 
there was not sufficient powder, or that it had not been long enough 
exposed to the rays of the sun. At last his patience was exhausted ; 
and fearful that he might suffer in the royal estimation by longer de- 



THE ALCHYMIST8. 197 

lay, he wrote to the king for a lettre de cachet^ in virtue of which the 
alchymist was seized at the castle of La Palu, in the month of June 
1711, and carried off to be imprisoned in the Bastille. 

The gendannes were aware that their prisoner was supposed to be 
the lucky possessor of the philosopher's stone, and (m the road they 
conspired to rob and murder him. One of them pretended to be 
touched with pity for the misfortunes of the philosopher, and offered 
to give him an opportunity of escape whenever he could divert the 
jittention of his companions. Delisle was profuse in his thanks, 
little dreaming of the snare that was laid for him. His treacherous 
friend gave notice of the success of the stratagem so far ; and it was 
agreed that Delisle should be allowed to struggle with and overthrow 
one of them while the rest were at some distance. They were then 
to pursue him and shoot him through the heart ; and after robbing 
the corpse of the philosopher's stone, convey it to Paris on a cart, 
and tell M. Desmarets that the prisoner had attempted to escape, and 
would have succeeded if they had not fired after bim and shot him 
through the body. At a convenient place the scheme was executed. 
On a given signal from the friendly gendarme, DeHsle fled, while 
another gendarme took aim and shot him through the thigh. Some 
peasants arriving at the instant, they were prevented from kilHng 
him as they intended, and he was transported to Paris, maimed and 
bleeding. He was thrown into a dungeon in the Bastille, and obsti- 
nately tore away the bandages which the surgeons applied to his 
wound. He never afterwards rose from his bed. 

The Bishop of Sen^s visited him in prison, and promised hini his 
liberty if he would transmute a certain quantity of lead into gold 
before the king. The unhappy man had no longer the means of 
canning on the deception ; he had no gold, and no double-bottomed 
crucible or hollow wand to conceal it in, even if he had. He would 
not, however, confess that he was an impostor ; but merely said he 
did not know how to make the powder of projection, but had re- 
ceived a quantity from an Italian philosopher, and had used it all in 
his various ^transmutations in Provence. He lingered for seven or 
eight months in the Bastille, and died from the effects of his wound, 
in the forty-first year of his age. 

AtiBebt Aluys. 

This pretender to the philosopher's stone was the son, by a former 
husband, of the woman Aluys, with whom Delisle became acquainted 
at the commencement of his career, in the cabaret by the road-side, 
and whom he afterwards married. Delisle performed the part of a 
father towards him, and thought he could shew no stronger proof of 



19d XXTBAORDDTAIlt POPULAS DELUSIONS. 

his regard, than by giving him the necessary instractions to carry on 
the deception which had raised himself to such a pitch of greatness. 
The young Aluys was an apt scholar, and soon mastered all the jargon 
of the alchymists. He discoursed learnedly upon projections, cimen- 
tations, sublimations, the elixir of life, and the universal alkahest ; 
and on the death of Delisle gave out that the secret of that great 
adept had been communicated to him, and to him only. His mother 
aided in the fraud, with the hope they might both fasten themselves, 
in the true alchymical fashion, upon some rich dupe, who would en- 
tertain them magnificently while the operation was in progress. Th« 
fate of Delisle was no inducement for them to stop in France. The 
Provencals, it is true, entertained as high an opinion as ever of his 
skill, and were well inclined to believe the tales of the young adept on 
whom his mantle had fallen ; but the dungeons of the Bastille were 
yawning for their prey, and Aluys and his mother decamped with ail 
convenient expedition. They travelled about the Continent for seve- 
ral years, sponging upon credulous rich men, and now and then per- 
forming successful transmutations by the aid of double-bottomed cru- 
cibles and the like. In the year 1726, Aluys, without his mother, 
who appears to have died in the interval, was at Vienna, where he in- 
troduced himself to the Duke de Richelieu, at that time ambassador 
from the court of France. He completely deceived this nobleman ; 
he turned lead into gold (apparently) on several occasions, and even 
made the ambassador himself turn an iron nail into a silver one. 
The duke afterwards boasted to Lenglet du Fresnoy of his achieve- 
ments as an alchymist, and regretted that he had not been able to 
discover the secret of the precious powder by which he performed 
them. 

Aluys soon found that, although he might make a dupe of the 
Duke de Richelieu, he could not get any money from him. On the 
contrary, the duke expected all his pokers and fire-shovels to be made 
silver, and all his pewter utensils gold ; and thought the honour of 
his acquaintance was reward suflScient for a roturier, who could not 
want wealth since he possessed so invaluable a secret. Aluys, seeing 
that so much was expected of him, bade adieu to his excellency, and 
proceeded to Bohemia accompanied by a pupil, and by a young girl who 
had fallen in love with him in Vienna. Some noblemen in Bohemia 
received him kindly, and entertained him at their houses for months 
at a time. It was his usual practice to pretend that he possessed only 
a few grains of his powder, with which he would operate in any house 
where he intended to fix his quarters for the season. He would make 
the proprietor the present of a piece of gold thus transmuted, and pro- 
mise him millions, if he could only be provided with leisure to 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 199 

ther his lunaria major and minor on their mountain-tops, and board, 
lodging, and loose cash for himself, his wife, and his pupil, in the 
interval. 

He exhausted in this manner the patience of some dozen of peo- 
ple, when, thinking that there was less danger for him in France 
under the young king Louis XV. than under his old and morose 
predecessor, he returned to Provence. On his arrival at Aix, he pre- 
sented himself before M. le Bret, the president of the province, a 
gentleman who was much attached to the pursuits of alchymy, and 
had great hopes of being himself able to find the philosopher's stone. 
M. le Bret, contrary to his expectation, received him very coolly, in 
consequence of some rumours that were spread abroad respecting 
him ; and told him to call upon him on the morrow. Aluys did not 
like the tone of the voice, or the expression of the eye of the learned 
president, as that functionary looked down upon him. Suspecting 
that all was not right, he left Aix secretly the same evening, and pro- 
ceeded to Marseilles. But the police were on the watch for him ; and 
he had not been there four-and-twenty hours, before he was arrested 
on a charge of coining, and thrown into prison. 

As the proofs against him were too convincing to leave him much 
hope of an acquittal, he planned an escape from durance. It eo hap- 
pened that the gaoler had a pretty daughter, and Aluys soon discovered 
that she was tender-hearted. He endeavoured to gain her in his fa- 
vour, and succeeded. The damsel, unaware that he was a married 
man, coiftseived and encouraged a passion for him, and generously 
provided him with the means of escape. After he had been nearly a 
year in prison he succeeded in getting free, leaving the poor girl be- 
hind to learn that he was already married, and to lament in solitude 
that she had given her heart to an ungrateful vagabond. 

When he left Marseilles, he had not a shoe to his foot or a decent 
garment to his back, but was provided with some money and clothes 
by his wife in a neighbouring town. They then found their way to 
Brussels, and by dint of excessive impudence, brought themselves into 
notice. He took a house, fitted up a splendid laboratory, and gave 
out that he knew the secret of transmutation. In vain did M. Percel, 
the brother-in-law of Lenglet du Fresnoy, who resided in that city, 
expose his pretensions, and hold him up to contempt as an ignorant 
impostor : the world believed him not. They took the alchymist at 
his word, and besieged his doors to see and wonder at the clever leger- 
demain by which he turned iron nails into gold and silver. A rich 
grejjwr paid him a large sum of money that he might be instructed in 
the art, and Aluys gave him several lessons on the most common prin- 
ciples of chemistry. The greffier studied hard for a twelvemonth, and 



200 EXTBAOBDINABT P0FT7LAB DELUSIOl^S. 

then discovered that his master was a quack. He demanded his monej 
back again ; but Alujs was not inclined to give it him, and the affair 
was brought before the civil tribunal of the province. In the mean 
time, however, the greffier died suddenly ; poisoned, according to the 
popular rumour, bj his debtor, to avoid repayment. So great an out- 
cry arose in the city, that Aluys, who may have been innocent of the 
crime, was nevertheless afraid to remain and brave it. He withdrew 
secretly in the night, and retired to Paris. Here all trace of him is 
lost. He was never heard of again ; but Lenglet du Fresnoy conjec- 
tures that he ended his days in some obscure dungeon, into which he 
was cast for coining or other malpractices. 

The Cotint db St. Gekmain. 

This adventiu'er was of a higher grade than the last, and played a 
distinguished part at the court of Louis ZY. He pretended to have 
discovered the elixir of life, by means of which he could make any 
one Hve for centuries ; and allowed it to believed that his own age 
was upwards of two thousand years. He entertained many of the 
opinions of the Rosicrudans ; boasted of his intercourse with sylphs 
and salamanders ; and of his power of drawiug diamonds from the 
earth, and pearls from the sea, by the force of his incantations. He 
did not lay claim to the merit of having discovered the philosopher's 
stone ; but devoted so much of his time to the operations of alchymy, 
that it was very generally believed, that if such a thing asHhe philo- 
sopher's stone had ever existed, or could be called into existence, he 
was the man to succeed in finding it. 

It has never yet been discovered what was his real name, or in 
what countiy he was bom. Some believed, from the Jewish cast of 
his handsome countenance, that he was the '' wandering Jew ;" others 
asserted that he was the issue of an Arabian princess, and that bis 
father was a salamander ; while others, more reasonable, affirmed hiin 
to be the son of a Portuguese Jew established at Bourdeaux. He 
first carried on his imposture in Germany, where he made consider- 
able sums by selling an elixir to arrest the progress of old age. The 
Mar6chal de Belle-Isle purchased a dose of it ; and was so captivated 
with the wit, learning, and good manners of the charlatan, and so 
convinced of the justice of his most preposterous pretensions, that he 
induced him to fix his residence in Paris. Under the marshal's pa- 
tronage, he first appeared in the gay circles of that capital. Evay 
one was delighted with the mysterious stranger ; who, at this period 
of his life, appears to have been about seventy years of age, but did 
not look more than forty-five. His easy assurance imposed upon most 



THE ALCHYMISTS. ^1 

people. His reading was extensive, and his memory extraordinarily 
tenacious of the slightest circumstances. His pretension to have lived 
for so many centuries naturally exposed him to some puzzling ques- 
tions, as to the appearance, life, and conversation of the great men 
of former days ; but he was never at a loss for an answer. Many who 
questioned him for the purpose of scofOng at him, refrained in per- 
plexity, quite bewildered by his presence of mind, his ready replies, 
and his astonishing accuracy on every point mentioned in history. 
To increase the mystery by which he was surrounded, he permitted 
no person to know how he lived. He dressed in a style of the greatest 
magnificence ; sported valuable diamonds in his hat, on his fingers, 
and in his shoe-bucldes ; and sometimes made the most costly pre- 
sents to the ladies of the court. It was suspected by many that he 
was a spy, in the pay of the English ministry ; but there never was a 
tittle of evidence to support the charge. The king looked upon him 
with marked favour, was often closeted with him for hours together, 
and would not suffer any body to speak disparagingly of him. Vol- 
taire constantly turned him into ridicule ; and, in one of his letters 
to the King of Prussia, mentions him as ^^ un comte pour rire ;'* and 
states that he pretended to have dined with the holy fathers at the 
Council of Trent 1 

In the MemoirB of Madame du HavMet^ chamber-woman to Madame 
du Pompadour, there are some amusing anecdotes of this personage. 
Very soon after his arrival in Paris, he had the erdrte of her dressing- 
room ; a favour only granted to the most powerful lords at the court 
of her royal lover. Madame was fond of conversing with him ; and, 
in her presence, he thought fit to lower his pretensions very consider- 
ably ; but he often allowed her to believe that he had lived two or 
three hundred years at least. *^ One day," says Madame du Hausset, 
'' madame said to him, in my presence, * What was the personal ap- 
pearance of Francis I. % He was a king I should have liked.' ^ He 
was, indeed, very captivating,' replied St. Germain ; and he proceeded 
to describe his face and person, as that of a man whom he had accu- 
rately observed. ^ It is a pity he was too ardent. I could have given 
him some good advice, which would have saved him from all his mis- 
fortunes : but he would not have followed it ; for it seems as if a 
fatality attended princes, forcing them to shut their ears to the wisest 
counsel.' ' Was his court very brilliant V inquired Madame du Pom- 
padour. * Very,' replied the count ; ^ but those of his grandsons sur- 
passed it. In the time of Mary Stuart and Margaret of Valois, it was 
a land of enchantment — a temple sacred to pleasures of every kind.' 
Madame said, laughing, ' You seem to have seen all this.' ' I have 
an excellent memoiy,' said he, ' and have read the histoiy of France 



202 EXTBAOBDINABT POPULAE DELUSIONS, 

with great care. I sometimes amuse myself, not by making, bnt bj 
letting, it be believed that I lived in old times.' 

'* *■ But you do not tell us your age,' said Madame du Pompadour 
to him on another occasion ; * and yet you pretend you are very old. 
The Countess de Gergy, who was, I believe, ambassadress at Vienna 
some fifty years ago, says she saw you there, exactly the same as you 
now appear.' 

" * It is true, madame,' replied St. Germain ; * I knew Madame 
de Gergy many years ago.* 

" ' But, according to her account, you must be more than a hun- 
dred years old V 

" * That is not impossible,' said he, laughing ; * but it is much more 
possible that the good lady is in her dotage.' 

" ' You gave her an elixir, surprising for the effects it produced ; 
for she says, that during a length of time, she only appeared to be 
eighty-four ; the age at which she took it. Why don't you give it to 
the king V 

" * Oh, madam,' he exclaimed, *the physicians would have me 
broken on the wheel, were I to think of drugging his majesty.' " 

When the world begins to believe extraordinary things of an in- 
dividual, there is no telling where its extravagance will stop. Peo- 
ple, when once they have taken the start, vie with each other who 
shsdl believe most. At this period all Paris resounded with the won- 
derful adventures of the Count de St. Germain ; and a company of 
waggish young men tried the following experiment upon its credulity : 
A clever mimic, who, on account of the amusement he afforded, was 
admitted into good society, was taken by them, dressed as the Count 
de St. Germain, into several houses in the Rue du Marais. He imi- 
tated the count's peculiarities admirably, and found his auditors open- 
mouthed to believe any absurdity he chose to utter. No fiction was 
too monstrous for their all-devouring credulity. He spoke of the 
Saviour of the world in terms of the greatest familiarity ; said he had 
supped with him at the marriage in Canaan of Galilee, where the 
water was miraculously turned into wine. In fact, he said he was an 
intimate friend of his, and had often warned him to be less romantic 
and imprudent, or he would finish his career miserably. This infa- 
mous blasphemy, strange to say, found believers ; and ere three days 
had elapsed, it was currently reported that St. Germain was bom soon 
after the deluge, and that he would never die 1 

St. Germain himself was too much a man of the world to assert 
any thing so monstrous ; but he took no pains to contradict the story. 
In all his conversations with persons of rank and education, he ad- 
vanced his claims modestly, and as if by mere inadvertency, and sel- 



THE ALCHTHISTS. 203 

dom pretended to a longevity beyond three hundred years, except 
when he found he was in company with persons who would believe 
any thing. He often spoke of Henry VIII. as if he had known him 
intimately, and of the Emperor Charles V. as if that monarch had 
delighted in his society. He would describe conversations which took 
place with such an apparent truthfulness, and be so exceedingly minute 
and particular as to the dress and appearance of the individuals, and 
even the weather at the time and the furniture of the room, that 
three persons out of four were generally inclined to credit him. He 
had constant applications from rich old women for an elixir to make 
them young again, and it would appear gained large sums in this 
manner. To those whom he was pleased to call his friends he said 
his mode of living and plan of diet were far superior to any elixir, 
and that any body might attain a patriaHfehal age by refraining from 
drinking at meals, and very sparingly at any other time. The Baron 
de Gleichen followed this system, and took great quantities of senna 
leaves, expecting to live for two hundred years. He died, however, 
at seventy-three. The Duchess de Choiseul was desirous of following 
the same system, but the duke her husband in much wrath forbade 
her to follow any system prescribed by a man who had so equivocal a 
reputation as M. de St. Germain. 

Madame du Hausset says she saw St. Germain and conversed with 
him several times. He appeared to her to be about fifty years of age, 
was of the middle size, and had fine expressive features. His dress 
was always simple, but displayed much taste. He usually wore dia- 
mond rings of great value, and his watch and snuff-box were orna- 
mented with a profusion of precious stones. One day, at Madame 
du Pompadour's apartments, where the principal courtiers were as- 
sembled, St. Germain made his appearance in diamond knee and shoe 
buckles of so fine a water, that madame said she did not think the 
king had any equal to them. He was entreated to pass into the ante- 
chamber and undo them, which he did, and brought them to madame 
for closer inspection. M. de Gontant, who was present, said their 
value could not be less than two hundred thousand livres, or upwards 
of eight thousand pounds sterling. The Baron de Gleichen, in his 
MemoirSy relates that the count one day shewed him so many dia- 
monds, that he thought he saw before him all the treasures of Alad- 
din's lamp ; ^nd adds, that he had had great experience in precious 
stones, and was convinced that all those possessed by the count were 
genuine. On another occasion St. Germain shewed Madame du Pom- 
padour a small box, containing topazes, emeralds, and diamonds worth 
half a million of livres. He affected to despise all this wealth, to 
make the world more easily believe that he could, like the Bosicru- 



204 EXTBAOBDINABT F0FT7IAR DELUSIONS. 

dans, draw precious stones out of the earth by the magic of his song. 
He gave away a great number of these jewels to the ladies of the 
court ; and Madame du Pompadour was so charmed with his genero- 
sity, that she gave him a richly enamelled snuff-box bs a token of her 
regard, on the lid of which was beautifully painted a portrait of So- 
crates, or some other Greek sage, to whom she compared him. He 
was not only lavish to the mistresses, but to the maids. Madame du 
Hausset says : *^ The count came to see Madame du Pompadour, who 
was very ill, and lay on the sofa. He shewed her diamonds enough 
to furnish a king's treasury. Madame sent for me to see all those 
beautiful things. I looked at them with an air of the utmost aston- 
ishment ; but I made signs to her that I thought them aU false. The 
count felt for something in a pocket-book about twice as large as a 
spectacle-case, and at lengtk drew out two or three little paper packets, 
which he unfolded, and exhibited a superb ruby. He threw on the 
table, with a contemptuous air, a little cross of green and white 
stones. I looked at it, and said it was not to be despised. I then 
put it on, and admired it greatly. The count begged me to accept 
it ; I refused. He urged me to take it. At length he pressed so 
warmly, that madame, seeing it could not be worth more than a thou- 
sand livres, made me a sign to accept it. I took the cross, much 
pleased with the count's politeness." 

How the adventurer obtained his wealth remains a secret. He 
could not have made it all by the sale of his dixir vitce in Gtenriany, 
though no doubt some portion of it was derived from that source. 
Voltaire positively says he was in the pay of foreign governments ; 
and in his letter to the King of Prussia, dated the 5th of April 1758, 
says that he was initiated in all the secrets of Ohoiseul, Eaunitz, and 
Pitt. Of what use he could be to any of those ministers, and to Ohoi- 
seul especially, is a mystery of mysteries. 

There appears no doubt that he possessed the secret of removing 
spots from diamonds ; and in all probability he gained considerable 
sums by buying at inferior prices such as had flaws in them, and after- 
wards disposing of them at a profit of cent per cent. Madame du 
Hausset relates the following anecdote on this particular: *'The 
king,*' says she, '^ ordered a middling-sized diamond, which had a flaw 
in it, to be brought to him. After having it weighed, his majesty 
said to the count, ^ The value of this diamond as it is, and with the 
flaw in it, is six thousand livres ; without the flaw, it would be worth 
at least ten thousand. Will you undertake to make me a gainer of 
four thousand livres V St. Germain examined it veiy attentively, and 
said, ' It is possible ; it may be done. I will bring it you again in a 
month.' At the time appointed the count brought back the diamond 



THE ALCHTMISTS. 205 

without a spoty and gave it to the king. It was wrapped in a cloth 
of amianthos, which he took off. The king had it weighed imme- 
diately, and found it very little diminished. His majesty then sent 
it to his jeweller by M. de Gontant, without telling him of any thing 
that had passed. The jeweller gave nine thousand six hundred livres 
for it. The king, however, sent for the diamond back again, and 
said he would keep it as a curiosity. He could not overcome his sur- 
prise, and said M. de St. Germain must be worth millions, especially 
if he possessed the secret of making large diamonds out of small ones. 
The count neither said that he could or could not, but positively 
asserted that he knew how to make pearls grow, and give them the 
finest water. The king paid him great attention, and 60 did Madame 
du Pompadour. M. du Quesnoy once said that St. Germain was a 
quack, but the king reprimanded him. In fact, his majesty appears 
infatuated by him, and sometimes talks of him as if his descent were 
iUustrious." 

St. Germain had a most amusing vagabond for a servant, to whom 
he would often appeal for corroboration, when relating some wonder- 
ful event that happened centuries before. The fellow, who was not 
without ability, generally corroborated him in a most satisfeu;tory man- 
ner. Upon one occasion, his master was telling a party of ladies and 
gentlemen, at dinner, some conversation he had had in Palestine with 
King Richard I. of England, whom he described as a very particular 
friend of his. Signs of astonishment and incredulity were visible on 
the faces of the company; upon which St. Germain very coolly turned 
to his servant, who stood behind his chair, and asked him if he had 
not spoken truth ? " I really cannot say," replied the man, without 
moving a muscle ; " you forget, sir, I have only been five hundred 
years in your service ! " " Ah ! true," said his master ; " I remem- 
ber now ; it was a little before your time !" 

Occasionally, when with men whom he could not so easily dupe, 
he gave utterance to the contempt with which he could scarcely avoid 
regarding such gaping credulity. " These fools of Parisians," said 
he to the Baron de Gleichen, " believe me to be more than five 
hundred years old ; and, since they will have it so, I confirm them 
in their idea. Not but that I really am much older than I appear." 

Many other stories are related of this strange impostor; but enough 
have been quoted to shew his character and pretensions. It appears 
that he endeavoured to find the philosopher's stone; but never boasted 
of possessing it. The Prince of Hesse Cassel, whom he had known 
years before, in Germany, wrote urgent letters to him, entreating 
him to quit Paris, and reside with him. St. Germain at last con- 
sented. Nothing further is known of his career. There were no 



206 EXTRA.OBDINABT POPULAX. DELUSIONS. 

gossipping memoir- writers at the court of Hesse Oassel to chronicle 
his sayings and doings. He died at Sleswig, under the roof of his 
friend the prince, in the year 1784. 

Cagliostro. 

This famous charlatan, the friend and successor of St. Germain, 
ran a career still more extraordinary. He was the arch-quack of his 
age, the last of the great pretenders to the philosopher's stone and 
the water of life, and during his brief season of prosperity, one of 
the most conspicuous characters of Europe. 

His real name was Joseph Balsamo. He was bom at Palermo, 
about the year 1743, of humble parentage. He had the misfortune to 
lose his father during his infancy, and his education was left in conse- 
quence to some relatives of his mother, the latter being too poor to 
afford him any instructiou beyond mere reading and writing. He was 
sent in his fifteenth year to a monastery, to be taught the elements 
of chemistiy and physic ; but his temper was so impetuous, his indo- 
lence so invincible, and his vicious habits so deeply rooted, that he 
made no progress. After remaining some years, he left it with the 
character of an uninformed and dissipated young man, with good 
natural talents but a bad disposition. When he became of age, he 
abandoned himself to a life of riot and debauchery, and entered him- 
self, in fact, into that celebrated fraternity, known in France and 
Italy as the ^^ Knights of Industry," and in England as the '' Swell 
Mob." He was far from being an idle or unwilling member of the 
corps. The first way in which he distinguished himself was by forg- 
ing orders of admission to the theatres. He afterwards robbed his 
uncle, and counterfeited a will. For acts like these, he paid frequent 
compulsory visits to the prisons of Palermo. Somehow or other he 
acquired the character of a sorcerer — of a man who had failed in dis- 
covering the secrets of alchymy, and had sold his soul to the devil 
for the gold which he was not able to make by means of transmuta- 
tion. He took no pains to disabuse the popular mind on this par- 
ticular, but rather encouraged the belief than otherwise. He at last 
made use of it to cheat a silversmith named Marano, of about sixty 
ounces of gold, and was in consequence obliged to leave Palermo. 
He persuaded this man that he could shew him a treasure hidden in 
a cave, for which service he was to receive the sixty ounces of gold, 
while the silversmith was to have all the treasure for the mere trouble 
of digging it up. They went together at midnight to an excavation 
in the vicinity of Palermo, where Balsamo drew a magic circle, and 
invoked the devil to shew his treasures. Suddenly there appeared 
half a dozen fellows, the accomplices of the swindler, dressed to repre- 



THE ALCHYHISTS. 207 

sent deyils, with horns on their heads, claws to their fingers, and 
vomiting apparently red and blue flame. They were armed with 
pitchforks, with which they belaboured poor Marano till he was al- 
most dead, and robbed him of his sixty ounces of gold and all the 
valuables he carried about his person. They then made off, accom- 
panied by Balsamo, leaving the unlucky silversmith to recover or die 
at his leisure. Nature chose the former course ; and soon after day- 
light he was restored to his senses, smarting in body from his blows 
and in spirit for the deception of which he had been the victim. His 
first impulse was to denounce Balsamo to the magistrates of the town ; 
but on further reflection he was afraid of the ridicule that a full ex- 
posure of all the circumstances would draw upon him ; he therefore 
took the truly Italian resolution of being revenged on Balsamo, by 
murdering him at the first convenient opportunity. Having given 
utterance to this threat in the hearing of a friend of Balsamo, it was 
reported to the latter, who immediately packed up his valuables and 
quitted Europe. 

He chose Medina, in Arabia, for his future dwelling-place, and 
there became acquainted with a Greek named Altotas, a man exceed- 
ingly well versed in all the languages of the East, and an indefatigable 
student of alchymy . He possessed an invaluable collection of Arabian 
manuscripts on his favourite science, and studied them with such un- 
remitting industry that he found he had not suflicient time to attend 
to his crucibles and furnaces without neglecting his books. He was 
looking about for an assistant when Balsamo opportunely presented 
himself, and made so favourable an impression that he was at once 
engaged in that capacity. But the relation of master and servant did 
not long subsist between them ; Balsamo was too ambitious and too 
clever to play a secondary part, and within fifteen days of their first 
acquaintance they were bound together as friends and partners. Al- 
totas, in the course of a long life devoted to alchymy, had stumbled 
upon some valuable discoveries in chemistry, one of which was an 
ingredient for improving the manufacture of flax, and imparting to 
goods of that material a gloss and softness almost equal to silk. Bal- 
samo gave him fhe good advice to leave the philosopher's stone for 
the present undiscovered, and make gold out of their flax. The ad- 
vice was taken, and they proceeded together to Alexandria to trade, 
with a large stock of that article. They stayed forty days in Alex- 
andria, and gained a considerable sum by their venture. They after- 
wards visited other cities in Egypt, and were equally successful. They 
also visited Turkey, where they sold drugs and amulets. On their 
return to Europe, they were driven by stress of weather into Malta, 
and were hospitably received by Pinto, the Grand Master of the 



208 SXTBAOBDINABY POFVLAJL DELUSIONS. 

Knights, and a &mous alohymist. They worked in hits laboratory 
for some months, and tried hard to change a pewter platter into a 
silver one. Balsamo, having less faith than his companions, was 
sooner wearied ; and obtaining from his host many letters of intro- 
duction to Bome and Naples, he left him and Altotas to find the 
philosopher's stone and transmute the pewter platter without him. 

He had long since dropped the name of Balsamo on account of 
the many ugly associations that clung to it ; and during his travels 
had assumed at least half a score others, with titles annexed to them. 
He called himself sometimes the Chevalier de Fischio, the Marquis 
de Melissa, the Baron de Belmonte, de Pelligrini, d'Anna, de Fenix, 
de Harat, but most commonly the Count de Cagliostro. Under the 
latter title he entered Rome, and never afterwards changed it. In 
this city he gave himself out as the restorer of the Rosicrucian philo- 
sophy ; said he could transmute all metals into gold ; that he could 
render himself invisible, cure all diseases, and administer an elixir 
against old age and decay. His letters from the Grand Master Pinto 
procured him an introduction into the best families. He made money 
rapidly by the sale of his elixir vitas; and, like other quacks, per- 
formed many remarkable cures by inspiring his patients with the 
most complete faith and reliance upon his powers ; an advantage 
which the most impudent charlatans often possess over the regular 
practitioner. 

While thus in a fair way of making his fortune he became ac- 
quainted with the beautiful Lorenza Feliciana, a young lady of noble 
birth, but without fortune. Cagliostro soon discovered that she pos- 
sessed accomplishments that were invaluable. Besides her ravishing 
beauty, she had the readiest wit, the most engaging manners, the 
most fertile imagination, and the least principle of any of the maidens 
of Rome. She was just the wife for Cagliostro, who proposed himself 
to her, and was accepted. After their marriage, he instructed his 
fair Lorenza in all the secrets of his calling — taught her pretty lips 
to invoke angels, and genii, sylphs, salamanders, and undines, and, 
when need required, devils and evil spirits. Lorenza was an apt 
scholar ; she soon learned all the jargon of the alchymists and all the 
spells of the enchanters ; and thus accomplished the hopeful pair set 
out on their travels, to levy contributions on the superstitious and 
the credulous. 

They first went to Sleswig on a visit to the Count de St. Germain, 
their great predecessor in the art of making dupes, and were received 
by him in the most magnificent manner. They no doubt fortified 
their minds for the career they had chosen by the sage discourse of 
that worshipful gentleman ; for immediately after they left him, they 



THE ALCHTMIBIS. 209 

began their operations. They travelled for three or four years in 
Russia, Poland, and Germany, traAsmuting metals, telling fortunes, 
raising spirits, and selling the dixir mtoB wherever they went ; but 
there is no record of their doings from whence to draw a more parti- 
cular detail. It was not until they made their appearance in Bugland 
in 1776, that the names of the Count and Countess di Cagliostro began 
to acquire a European reputation. They arrived in London in the 
July of that year, possessed of property, in plate, jewels, and specie, 
to the amount of about three thousand pounds. They hired apart- 
ments in Whitcombe Street, and lived for some months quietly. In 
the same house there lodged a Portuguese woman, named Blavary, 
who, being in necessitous circumstances, was engaged by the count as 
interpreter. She was constantly admitted into his laboratory, where 
he spent much of his time in search of the philosopher's stone. She 
spread abroad the fame of her entertainer in return for his hospitality,^ 
and laboured hard to impress every body with as full a belief in his 
extraordinary powers as she felt herself ; but as a female interpreter 
of the rank and appearance of Madame Blavary did not exactly cor- 
respond with the count's notions either of dignity or decorum, he 
hired a person named Yitellini, a teacher of languages, to act in that 
capacity. Yitellini was a desperate gambler, a man who had tried 
almost every resource to repair his ruined fortunes, including among, 
the rest the search for the philosopher's stone. Immediately that he 
saw the count's operations, he was convinced that the great secret was 
his, and that the golden gates of the palace of fortime were open to 
let him in. With still more enthusiasm than Madame Blavary, he 
held forth to his acquaintance, and in all public places, that the count 
was an extraordinaiyman, a true adept, whose fortune was immense, 
and who could transmute into pure and solid gold as much lead, iron, 
and copper as he pleased. The consequence was, that the house of 
Cagliostro was besieged by crowds of the idle, the credulous, and the 
avaricious, all eager to obtain a sight of the ^^philosopher," or to 
share in the boundless wealth which he could call into existence. 

Unfortunately for Cagliostro, he had fallen into evil hands. In- 
stead of duping the people of England, as he might have done, he be- 
came himself the victim of a gang of swindlers, who, with the fullest 
reliance on his occult powers, only sought to make money of him. 
Yitellini introduced to him a ruined gambler like himself, named 
Scot, whom he represented as a Scottish nobleman, attracted to Lon- 
don solely by his desire to see and converse with the extraordinary 
man whose fame had spread to the distant mountains of the north. 
Cagliostro received him with great kindness and cordiality; and. 
Lord" Scot thereupon introduced a woman named Fry as Lady Scot, 

U 



(( 



210 XXTBAOKDIKABT POPVLAB DELUSIONS. 

who was to act as chaperone to the Countess di Gagliostro, and make 
her acquainted with all the nohle families of Britain. Thus things 
went swimmingly. '* His lordship," whose effects had not arrived 
from Scotland, and who had no banker in London, borrowed two hun* 
dred pounds of the count. They were lent without scruple, so flat- 
tered was Oagliostro by the attentions they paid him, the respect, 
nay yeneration they pretended to feel for him, and the complete de- 
ference with which they listened to every word that fell from his lips. 

Superstitious like all desperate gamesters, Scot had often tried 
magicsJ and cabalistic numbers, in the hope of discovering lucky num- 
bers in the lottery or at the roulette-tables. He had in his possession 
a cabalistic manuscript, containing various arithmetical combinations 
of the kind, which he submitted to Oagliostro, with an urgent request 
that he would select a number. Oagliostro took the manuscript and 
studied it, but, as he himself informs us, with no confidence in its 
truth. He, however, predicted twenty as the successful number for 
the 6th of November following. Scot ventured a small sum upon tlus 
number out of the two hundred pounds he had borrowed, and won. 
Oagliostro, incited by this success, prognosticated number twenty-five 
for the next drawing. Scot tried again, and won a hundred guineas. 
The numbers fifty-five and fifty-seven were announced with equal suc- 
cess for the 18th of the same month, to the no small astonishment 
and delight of Oagliostro, who thereupon resolved to try fortune for 
himself, and not for others. To all the entreaties of Scot and his 
lady that he would predict more numbers for them, he turned a denf 
ear, even while he still thought him a lord and a man of honour ; but 
when he discovered that he was a mere swindler, and the pretended 
Lady Scot an artful woman of the town, he closed his door upon them 
and on all their gang. 

Having complete faith in the supernatural powers of the count, 
they were in the deepest distress at having lost his countenance. They 
tried by every means their ingenuity could suggest to propitiate him 
again. They implored, they threatened, and endeavoured to bribe 
him ; but all was vain. Oagliostro would neither see nor correspond 
with them. In the mean time they lived extravagantly, and in the 
hope of future, exhausted all their present gains. They were reduced 
to the last extremity, when Miss Fry obtained access to the countess, 
and received a guinea from her on the representation that she was 
starving. Miss Fry, not content^ with this, Ix^ed her to intercede 
with her husband, that for the last time he would point out a lucky 
niunber in the lottery. The countess promised to exert her influence ; 
and Oagliostro, thus entreated, named the number eight, at the same 
time reiterating his determination to have no more to do with any of 



THE ALCHTHIST8. 211 

them. By an extraordiBarj hazard, which iilled Oagliostro with sur- 
prise and pleasure, number eight was the greatest prize in the lottery. 
Miss F17 and her associateB cleared fifteen hundred guineas by the 
adventmre, and became more than ever conyinced of the occult powers 
of Cagliostro, and strengthened in their determination never to quit 
him until they had made their fortunes. Out of the proceeds Miss 
Fry bought a handsome necklace at a pawnbroker's for ninety guineas. 
8he then ordered a richly- chased gold box, having two compartments, 
to be made at a jeweller's, and putting the necklace in the one, filled 
the other with a fine aromatic snuff. She then sought another inter- 
view with Madame di Cagliostro, and urged her to accept the box as 
a SQudl token of her esteem and gratitude, without mentioning the 
valuable necklace that was concealed in it. Madame di Cagliostro 
accepted the present, and was from that hour exposed to the most in- 
cessant persecution from all the confederates — ^Blavaty,yitellini, and 
the pretended Lord and Lady Scot. They flattered themselves they 
had regained their lost footing in the house, and came day after day 
to know lucky numbers in the lottery, sometimes forcing themselves 
up the stairs, and into the count's laboratoiy, in spite of the efforts 
of the servants to prevent them. Cagliostro, exasperated at their per- 
tinacity, threatened to call in the assistance of the magistrates, and 
taking Miss Fry by the shoulders, pushed her into the street. 

From that time may be dated the misfortunes of Cagliostro. Miss 
Fry, at the instigation of her paramour, determmed on vengeance. 
Her first act was to swear a debt of two hundred pounds against 
Cagliostro, and to cause him to be arrested for that sum. While he 
was in custody in a sponging -house, Scot, accompanied by a low 
attorney, broke into his laboratoiy, and carried off a small box, con- 
taining, as they believed, the powder of transmutation, and a number 
of cabalistic manuscripts and treatises upon alchymy. They also 
brought an action against him for the recovery of the necklace; and 
Miss Fry accused both him and his countess of sorcery and witchcraft, 
and of foretelling numbers in the lottery by the aid of the Devil. 
This latter charge was actually heard before Mr. Justice Miller. The 
action of trover for the necklace was tried before the Lord Chief 
Justice of the Common Pleas, who recommended the parties to sub- 
mit to arbitration. In the mean time Cagliostro remained in prison 
for several weeks, till having procured bail, he was liberated. He 
was soon after waited upon by an attorney named Reynolds, also deep 
in the plot^ who offered to compromise all the actions upon certain 
conditions. Scot, who had accompanied him, concealed himself be-, 
hind the door, and suddenly rushing out, presented a pistol at the 
heart of Cagliostro, swearing he would shoot him instantly, if he 



212 EXTRAOBBlKiLaT POFtTLAS DELUSIONS. 

would not teU him truly the art of predicting lucky numbers and 
of transmuting metals. Reynolds pretending to be very angty, dis- 
armed his accomplice, and entreated the count to satisfy them by fair 
means, and disclose his secrets, promising that if he would do so, they 
would discharge all the actions, and offer him no further molestation. 
Oagliostro replied, that threats and entreaties were alike useless; that 
he knew no secrets; and that the powder of transmutation of which 
they had robbed him, was of no value to any body but himself. He 
offered, howeyer, if they would discharge the actions, and return the 
powder and the manuscripts, to forgive them all the money they had 
swindled him out of. These conditions were refused ; and Soot and 
Reynolds departed, swearing vengeance against him. 

Oagliostro appears to have been quite ignorant of the forms of law 
in England, and to have been without a friend to advise him as to the 
best coiurse he should pursue. While he was conversing with his 
countess on the difficulties that beset them, one of his bail called, 
and invited him to ride in a hackney coach to the house of a person 
who would see him righted. Oagliostro consented, and was driven to 
the King's Bench prison, where his friend left him. He did not dis- 
cover for several hours tiiat he was a prisoner, or, in fact, understand 
the process of being surrendered by one's bail. 

He regained his liberty in a few weeks; and the arbitrators be- 
tween him and Miss Fry made their award against him. He was 
ordered to pay the two hundred pounds she had sworn against him, 
and to restore the necklace and gold box which had been presented 
to the countess. Oagliostro was so disgusted, that he determined to 
quit England. His pretensions, besides, had been unmercifully ex- 
posed by a Frenchman, named Morande, the editor of the Courrier de 
VEurope^ published in London. To add to his distress, he vras recog- 
nised in Westminster Hall as Joseph Balsamo, the swindler of Palermo. 
Such a complication of disgrace was not to be borne. He and his 
countess packed up their small effects, and left England with no more 
than fifty pounds, out of the three thousand they had brought with 
them. 

They first proceeded to Brussels, where fortune was more auspi- 
cious. They sold considerable quantities of the elixir of life, per- 
formed many cures, and recruited their finances. They then took 
their course through Germany to Russia, and always with the same 
success. Gold flowed into their coffers faster than they could count 
it. They quite forgot all the woes they had endured in England, 
and learned to be more circumspect in the choice of their acquaint- 
ance. 

In the year 1780, they made their appearance in Straabouig. 



THE ALCHTHIST8« 213 

Their fame had reached that city before them. They took a magnifi* 
cent hotel, and invited all the principal persons of the place to their 
table. Their wealth appeared to be boundless, and their hospitality 
equal to it. Both the count and countess acted as physicians, and gaye 
money, advice, and medicine to all the necessitous and suffering of 
the town. Many of the cures they performed astonished those regu- 
lar practitioners who did not make sufficient allowance for the won- 
derful influence of imagination in certain cases. The countess, who 
at this time was not more than five-and-twenty, and all radiant with 
grace, beauty, and cheerfulness, spoke openly of her eldest son as a 
fine young man of eight-and-tweuty, who had been for some years a 
captain in the Dutch service. The trick succeeded to admiration. 
All the ugly old women in Strasbourg, and for miles around, thronged 
the saloon of the countess to purch&se the liquid which was to make 
them as blooming as their daughters ; the young women came in equal 
abundance, that they might preserve their charms, and when twice as 
old as Ninon de TEnclos, be more captivating than she ; while men were 
not wanting who were fools enough to imagine that they might keep 
off the inevitable stroke of the grim foe by a few drops of the same 
incomparable elixir. The countess, sooth to say, looked like an incar- 
nation of immortal loveliness, a very goddess of youth and beauty; 
and it is possible that the crowds of young men and old, who at all 
convenient seasons haunted the perfumed chambers of this enchan- 
tress, were attracted less by their belief in her occult powers than 
from admiration of her languishing bright eyes and sparkling conver- 
sation. But amid all the incense that was offered at her shrine, 
Madame di Oagliostro was ever fsuthful to her spouse. She encou- 
raged hopes, it is true, but she never realised them; she excited 
admiration, yet kept it within bounds; and made men her slaves, 
without ever granting a favour of which the vainest might boast. 

In this city they made the acquaintance of many eminent persons, 
and, among others, of the Cardinal Prince de Rohan, wjio was des- 
tined afterwards to exercise so untoward an influence over their fate. 
The cardinal, who seems to have had great faith in him as a philo- 
sopher, persuaded him to visit Paris in his company, which he did, 
but remained only thirteen days. He preferred the society of Stras- 
bourg, and returned thither with the intention of fixing his residence 
far from the capital. But he soon found that the first excitement of 
his arrival had passed away. People began to reason with them- 
selves, and to be ashamed of their own admiration. The populace, 
among whom he had lavished his charity with a bountiful hand, 
accused him of being the Antichrist, the Wandering Jew, the man of 
fourteen hundred years of age, a demon in hiunan shape, sent to 



214 EXTRAOBDINAKT POFITLAB DELTTSIOVS. 

lure the ignorant to their destruction ; while the more opulent and 
better informed called him a spy in the pay of foreign goYemmentB, 
an agent of the police, a swindler, and a man of evil life. The out- 
cry grew at last so strong, that he deemed it prudent to tiy his for- 
tune elsewhere. 

He went first to Naples, but that dty was too near Palermo ; 
he dreaded recognition from some of his early friends, and, after a 
short stay, returned to France. He chose Bourdeaux as his next 
dwelling-place, and created as great a sensation there as he had done 
in Strasbourg. He announced himself as the founder of a new school 
of medicine and philosophy, boasted of his ability to cure all diseases, 
and invited the poor and suffering to visit him, and he would relieve 
the distress of the one class, and cure the ailings of the other. All 
day long the street opposite his magnificent hotel was crowded by 
the populace ; the halt and the blind, women with sick babes in their 
arms, and persons suffering under every species of human infirmity, 
flocked to this wonderful doctor. The relief he afforded in money 
more than counterbalanced the failure of his nostrums; and the 
affluence of people from all the surrounding country became so 
great, that iAi'^ jurats of the dty granted him a military guard, to be 
stationed day and night before his door, to keep order. The antici- 
pations of Oagliostro were realised. The rich were struck with admi- 
ration of his charity and benevolence, and impressed with a full con- 
viction of his marvellous powers. The sale of the elixir went on 
admirably. His saloons were thronged with wealthy dupes who 
came to purchase immortality. Beauty, that would endure for cen- 
turies, was the attraction for the fair sex ; health and strength for 
the same period were the baits held out to the other. His charming 
countess, in the meantime, brought grist to the mill by telling for- 
tunes and casting nativities, or granting attendant sylphs to any 
ladies who would pay suffidently for thdr services. What was still 
better, as tending to keep up the credit of her husband, she gave the 
most magnificent parties in Bourdeaux. 

But as at Strasbourg, the popular delusion lasted for a few months 
only, and burned itself out ; Oagliostro forgot, in the intoxication of 
success, that there was a limit to quackery whidh once passed inspired 
distrust. When he pretended to call spirits from the tomb, people 
became incredulous. He was accused of being an enemy to religion, 
of denying Christ, and of being the Wandering Jew. He despised 
these rumours as long as they were confined to a few ; but when 
they spread over the town, when he received no more fees, when his 
parties were abandoned, and his acquaintance turned away when they 
met him in the street, he thought it high time to shift his quarters* 



IHB AI^HIHISIS. 219 

He was bj this time wearied of the provinceB, and turned his 
tho<^ts to the capital. On hie airival he annoUnoed himself as the 
restorer of Egyptian Freemasonrj, and the founder of a new philo- 
sophy, He immediately made his way into the best society by metuia 
of hia friend the Cardinal de Bohan. His success as a magician waa 
quite extraordinat; : the most conuderable persons of the time visited 
him. He boasted of being able, like the Rosicriiciaus, to oonverM 



with the elementary spirits; to invoke the mighty dead from the 
grave, to transmute metals, and to discover occult things by means 
of the special protection of Qod towards him. Like Br. Dee, he 
summoned the angels to reveal the future ; and they appeared and 
conversed with him in crystals and under glass bcUs.' " There was 
hardly," sajs the Biographie de* Contemporaim, " a fine lady in Paris 
who would not sup with the shade of Lucretius in the apiutments of 
Cagliostro ; a military officer who would not discuss the art of war 
vrith Ciesar, Hannibal, or Alexander; or an advocate or counsellor 
who would not argue legal points with the ghost of Cicero." These 
interviews with the departed were very expensive j for, as Cagliostro 
• Seethe iblit Fitii, tnd Amahm 0/ 1^ BeigK of Loaii XVI. p. iM. 



216 EXTBAOEBINABT FOPULAS DELUSIONS. 

said, the dead would not rise for nothing. The countess, as usual, 
exercised all her ingenuity to support her husband's credit. She was 
a great favourite with her own sex, to many a delighted and won- 
dering auditoiy of whom she detailed the marvellous powers of Gag- 
liostro. She said he could render himself invisible, traverse the 
world with the rapidity of thought, and be in several places at the 
same time.* 

He had not been long at Paris before h^ became involved in the 
celebrated affair of the queen's necklace. His friend the Cardinal de 
Kohan, enamoured of the charms of Marie Antoinette, was in sore 
distress at her coldness, and the displeasure she had so often mani- 
fested against him. There was at that time a lady named La Motte 
in the service of the queen, of whom the cardinal was foolish enough 
to make a confidant. Madame de la Motte, in return, endeavoured 
to make a tool of the cardinal, and succeeded but too well in her pro- 
jects. In her capacity of diamber-w^mau, or lady of honour to the 
queen, she was present at an interview betwea& her majesty and 
M. Boehmer, a wealthy jeweller of Paris, when the latter offered for 
sale a magnificent diaiftond necklace, vaJned at 1,600,000 francs, or 
about 64,000^. sterling. The queen admired it greatly, but dismissed 
the jeweller, with the expression of her regret that she was too poor 
to purchase it. Madame de la Motte formed a plan to get this costly 
ornament into her own possession, and determiiaed to make the Car- 
dinal de Rohan the instrument by which to effect it. She therefore 
sought an interview witih him, and pretending to 4Bympathise in his 
grief for the queen's displeasure, tokL him she knew a way by which 
he might be restored to favour. She then meotaefied the necklace, 
and the sorrow of the queen that she could not afford to buy it. The 
cardinal, who was as wealthy as he was foolish, immediately offered 
to purchase the necklace, and make a present of it to the queen. 
Madame de la Motte told him by no means to do so, as he would 
thereby offend her majesty. His plan would be to induce the jewel- 
ler to give her majesty credit, and accept her promissory note for the 
amount at a certain date, to be hereafter agreed upon. The cardinal 
readily agreed to the proposal, and instructed the jeweller to draw 
up an agreement, and he would procure the queen's signature. He 
placed this in the hands of Madame de la Motte, who returned it 
shortly afterwards, with the words, " Bon, bon — approuv6 — ^Marie 
Antoinette," written in the margin. She told him at the same time 
that the que^n was highly pleased with his conduct in the matter, 
and would appoint a meeting with him in the gardens of Yersailles, 

* Bioffraphie des Contemporains, article " CaglioBtro." See also Hiatoire de la MagU en 
Francej par M. Jutes Qarinet, p. 284. 



THS ALCHYMISIS. 2X7 

when Bhe would {»«8ent him with a flower, as a token of her regard. 
The cardinal shewed the forged document to the jeweller, obtamed 
the necklace, and delivered it into the hands of Madame de la Motte. 
So far all was well. Her next object was -to satisfy the cardinal, who 
awaited impatiently the promised interview with his rojal mistress. 
There was at that time in Paris a young woman named D'Oliva, noted 
for her resanblanee to the queen ; and Madame de la Motte, on the 
promise of a handsome reward, found no diflS^culty in persuading her 
to personate Marie Antoinette, and meet the Cardinal de Rohan at 
the evening twilight in the gardens of Yersailles. The meeting took 
place accordingly. The cardinal was deceived by the uncertain Hght, 
the great resemblance of the counterfeit, and his own hopes ; and hav- 
ing received the flower from Mademoiselle D'OUva, went home with 
a lighter heart than had beat in his bosom for many a day.* 

In the course of time the forgery of the queen's signature was dis- 
covered. Boehmer the jeweller immediately named the Cardinal de 
Rohan and Madame de la Motte as the persons with whom he had 
negotiated, and they were both arrested and thrown into the Bastille. 
La Motte was subjected to a rigorous examination, and the disclosures 
she made implicating Cagliostro, he was seized, along with his wife, 
and also sent to the Bastille. A story involving so much scandal 
necessarily excited great curiosity. Kothing was to be heard of in 
Paris but the queen's necklace, with surmises of the guilt or innocence 
of the several parties implicated. The husband of Madame de la 
Motte escaped to England, and in the opinion of many took the neck- 
lace with him, and there disposed of it to different jewellers in small 
quantities at a time. But Madame de la Motte innsted that she had 
entrusted it to Cagliostro, who had seized and taken it to pieces, to 
'^ swell the treasures of his immense unequalled fortune." She spoke 
of him as '^ an empiric, a mean alchymist, a dreamer on the philoso- 
pher's stone, a false prophet, a profaner of the true worship, the self- 
dubbed Count Cagliostro !" She further said that he originally con- 
ceived the project of ruining the Cardinal de Rohan ; that he per- 
suaded her, by the exercise of some magic influence oVer her mind, 
to aid and abet the scheme ; and that he was a robber, a swindler, 
and a sorcerer I 

After all the accused parties had remained for upwards of six 
mc»iths in the Bastille, the laial commenced. The depositions of the 

* The enomies of the imfortimate Qaeen of Fxaooe, when the progress of the Rero- 
lution embittered their animosity against her, maintained that she was really a party in 
this transaction ; that she, and not Mademoiselle D'Oliva, met the cardinal and rewarded 
him with the flower; and that the story above related was merely concocted between her 
La Motte, and others to cheat the jeweller of his 1,600,000 finncs. 



218 EXTBAOBDINAAT F0FDLA3L D1BLVSI0KS. 

witnesses haying been heard, Oagliostro, as the principal ctdprit, was 
first called upon for his' defence. He was listened to with the most 
breathless attention. He put himself into a theatrical attitude, and 
thus began : — " I am oppressed t — I am accused ! — I am calumniated ! 
Have I deserved this fate 9 I descend into my conscience, and I there 
find the peace that men refuse me ! I have travelled a great deal*- 
I am known over all Europe, and a great part of Asia and Africa. I 
have every where shewn myself the friend of my fellow -creatures. 
My knowledge, my time, my fortune have ever been employed in tha 
relief of distress. I have studied and practised medicine ; but I have 
never degraded that most noble and most consoling of arts by mer^ 
cenary speculations of any kind. Though always giving, and never 
receiving, I have preserved my independence. I have even carried 
my delicacy so far as to refuse the favours of kings. I have given 
gratuitously my remedies and my advice to the rich ; the poor have 
received from me both remedies and money. I have never contracted 
any debts, and my manners are pure and uncorrupted." After much 
more self-laudation of the same kind, he went on to complain of the 
great hardships he had enduxed in being separated for so many month, 
from his innocent and loving wife, who, as he was given to under- 
stand, had been detained in the Bastille, and perhaps chained in ao. 
unwholesome dungeon. He denied unequivocally that he had ite 
necklace, or that he had ever seen it ; and to silence the rumours and 
accusations against him, which his own secrecy with regard to the 
events of his life had perhaps originated, he expressed himself ready 
to satisfy the curiosity of the public, and to give a plain and full 
account of his career. He then told a romantic and incredible tale^ 
which imposed upon no one. He said he neither knew the place of 
his birth nor the name of his parents, but that he spent his infancy 
in Medina, in Arabia, and was brought up under the name of Acharat. 
He lived in the palace of the Great Muphti in that city, and always 
had three servants to wait upon him, besides his preceptor, named 
Althotas. This Althotas was very fond of him, and told him that his 
father and mother, who were Christians and nobles, died when he was 
three months old, and left him in the care of the Muphti. He could 
never, he said, ascertain their names, for whenever he asked Althotas 
the question, he was told that it would be dangerous for him to know. 
Some incautious expressions dropped by his preceptor gave him rea- 
son to think they were from Malta. At the age of twelve he b^an 
his travels, and learned the various languages of the East. He re- 
mained three years in Mecca, where the cherif, or governor, shewed 
him so much kindness, and spoke to him so tenderly and a£fection- 
ately, that he sometimes thought that personage was his father. He 



THE ALCHTHISTS. 219 

quitted thia good man with tear» in his eyes, and never saw him 
afterwards ; but he was convince^that he was, even at that moment, 
indebted to his care for all the advantages he enjoyed. Whenever he 
arrived in any city, either of Europe or Asia, he found an account 
opened for him at the principal bankers' or merchants'. He could 
draw upon them to the amount of thousands and hundreds of thou- 
sands ; and no questions were ever asked beyond his name. He had 
only to mention the word ' Acharat,' and all his wants were supplied. 
He firmly believed that the Oherif of Mecca was the friend to whom 
all was owing. This was the secret of his wealth, and he had no occa- 
sion to resort to swindling for a livelihood. It was not worth his 
while to steal a diamond necklace when he had wealth enough to 
purchase as many as he pleased, and more magnificent ones than had 
ever been worn by a queen of France. As to the other charges 
brought against him by Madame de la Motte, he had but a short 
answer to give. She had called him an empiric. He was not un- 
familiar with the word. If it meant a man who, without being a 
physician, had some knowledge of medicine, and took no fees — who 
cured both rich and poor, and took no money from either, he confessed 
that he was such a man, that he was an empiric. She had also called 
him a mean alchymist. Whether he were an alchymist or not, the 
epithet mean could only be applied to those who begged and cringed, 
and he had never done either. As regarded his being a dreamer about 
the philosopher's stone, whatever his opinions upon that subject might 
be, he had been silent, and had never troubled the public with his 
dreams. Then, as to his being a false prophet, he had not always 
been so ; for he had prophesied to the Cardinal de Rohan, that 
Madame de la Motte would prove a dangerous woman, and the result 
had verified the prediction. He denied that he was a profaner of the 
true worship, or that he had ever striven to bring religion into con- 
tempt ; on the contrary, he respected every man's religion, and never 
meddled with it. He also denied that he was a Rosicrucian, or that 
he had ever pretended to be three hundred years of age, or to have 
had one man in his service for a hundred and fifty years. In con- 
clusion, he said every statement that Madame de la Motte had made 
regarding him was false, and that she was mentiris imptidenitssimey 
which two words he barged her counsel to translate for her, as it was 
not polite to tell her so in French. 

Such was the substance of his extraordinary answer to the charges 
against him ; an answer which convinced those who were before 
doubtful that he was one of the most impudent impostors that had 
ever run the career of deception. Counsel were then heard on behalf 
of the Cardinal de Rohan and Madame de la Motte. It appearing 



220 EXTBAOEDIN AKT FOFTJIAS DELUSIONS. 

dearlj that the cardinal was himMlf the dape of a yile oonspixacyy 
and there being no evidence agai^t Oagliostro, they were both ac- 
quitted. Madame de la Motte was found guilty, and s^itenced to be 
publicly whipped, and branded with a hot iron on the back. 

Oagliostro and his wife were then discharged from custody. On 
applying to the officers of the Bastille for the papers and effects which 
had been seized at his lodgings, he found that many of them had 
been abstracted. He thereupon brought an action against them for 
the recovery of his Mss. and a small portion of the powder of trans- 
mutation. Before the affair could be decided, he received orders to 
quit Paris within four-and-twenty hours. Fearing that if he were 
once more enclosed in the dungeons of the Bastille he should never 
see daylight again, he took his departure immediately and proceeded 
to England. On his arrival in London he made the acquaintance of 
the notorious Lord George Gordon, who espoused his cause warmly, 
and inserted a letter in the public papers, animadverting upon the 
conduct of the Queen of France in the affair of the necklace, and 
asserting that she was really the guilty party. For this letter Lord 
George was exposed to a prosecution at the instance of the French 
ambassador, found guilty of libel, and sentenced to fine and a long 
imprisonment. 

Oagliostro and the countess afterwards travelled in Italy, where 
they were arrested by the Papal government in 1789, and condemned 
to death. The charges against him were, that he was a freemason, 
a heretic, and a sorcerer. This unjustifiable sentence was affcerwardfl 
commuted into one of perpetual imprisonment in the Castle of St. 
Angelo. His wife was allowed to escape severer punishment by im- 
muring herself in a nunnery. Oagliostro did not long survive. The 
loss of liberty preyed upon his mind — accumulated misfortunes had 
injured his h^th and broken his spirit, and he died early in 1790. 
His fate may have been no better than he deserved, but it is impos- 
sible not to feel that his sentence for the crimes assigned was utterly 
disgraceful to the government that pronounced it. 

PBESENT STATE OF ALCHYMY. 

We have now finished the list of the persons who have most 
distinguished themselves in this unprofitable pursuit. Among them 
are men of all ranks, characters, and conditions : the truthnseeking 
but erring philosopher ; the ambitious prince and the needy noble, 
who have believed in it ; as well as the designing charlatan, who 
has not believed in it, but has merely made the pretension to it the 
pieans of cheating his fellows, and living upon their credulity. One 



THE ALCHYMISTS. 221 

or more of all these classes will be found in the foregoing pages. 
It will be seen, from the record of their lives, that the delusion 
was not altogether without its uses. ^ Men, in striving to gain too 
much, do not always overreach themselves ; if they cannot arrive at 
the inaccessible mountain-top, they may perhaps get half way to- 
wards it, and pick up some scraps of wisdom and knowledge on the 
road. The useful science of chemistry is not a little indebted to 
its spurious brother of alchymy. Many valuable discoveries have 
been made in that search for the impossible, which might other- 
wise have been hidden for centuries yet to come. Roger Bacon, in 
searching for the philosopher's stone, discovered gunpowder, a still 
more extraordinary substance. Yan Helmont, in the same pursuit, 
discovered the properties of gas ; Geber made discoveries in chemistry 
which were equally important ; and Paracelsus, amidst his perpetual 
visions of the transmutation of metals, found that mercury was a 
remedy for one of the most odious and excruciating of all the diseases 
that afflict humanity. 

In our day little mention is made in Europe of any new devotees 
of the science, though it is affirmed that one or two of our most il- 
lustrious men of science do not admit the pursuit to be so absurd and 
vain as it has been commonly considered in recent times. The belief 
in witchcraft, which is scarcely more absurd, still lingers in the po- 
pular mind ; but few are so credulous as to believe that any elixir 
could make man live for centuries, or turn all our iron and pewter 
into gold. Alchymy, in Europe, may be said to be almost wholly 
exploded; but in the East it still flourishes in as great repute as 
ever. Recent travellers make constant mention of it, especially in. 
China, Hindostan, Persia, Tartary, Egypt, and Arabia. 



«:>^C:^<iX^2JC^XD^^5r ^ 



MODERN PROPHECIEa 



Jemic terror of the eod of the world has 

nJ times spread over the nations. The 

t remarkabte wae that which seized Ohm- 

lom about the middle of the tenth century. 

nbers of fanatics appeared in France, Qer- 

ly, and Italy at that time, preaching that 

thousand years prophesied in the Apo- 

pse as the term of the world's duratitm 

t about to expire, and that the Son of Man 

appear in the clouds to judge the godly 

le ungodly. The delusion appears to have 

iscouraged 1^ the Church, but it nevcrthe- 

read rapidly among the people.* 

e scene of the last judgment was expected 

Lt Jentsalem. In the year 999, the num- 

grims proceeding eastward, to await the 

the Lord in that city, was so great that 

compared to a desolating army. Meet of 

their goods and possessions before th^ 

u«pe, and lived upon the proceeds in the 

I. Buildings of ereiy sort were suffered 

> ruing. It was thought useless to repair 

them, when the end of the world was so near. Many 

noble edifices were deliberately pulled down. Even churches, usually 

BO well maintained, shared the general n^lect. Knights, dtizens, 

and serfs, trarelled eastwards in company, taking with them their 

wives and children, singing psalms as they went, and looking with 

fearful eyes upon the sky, which they expected each minute to open, 

to let the Son of Qod descend in his glory. 

Itaring the thousandth year the number of pilgrims increased. 
Most of them were smitten with terror as with a plague. Every phe- 
nomenon of nature filled them with alarm. A thunder-storm sent 
them all upon their knees in mid-march. It was the opinion that 

• See Gibbon ud TDlUire fsi liirtlier noUoe oT thli ut^eet. 



KODEBXr PB0FHECIB8. 223 

thunder was the voice of God, annonncmg the day of judgment. 
Numbers expected the earth to open, and give up its dead at the 
sound. Every meteor in the sky seen at Jerusalem brought the whole 
Christiaa population into the streets to weep and pray. The pilgrims 
on the road were in the same alarm : 

" Lorsque, pendant la nuit, un globe de lumi^re 
S'^happa quelquefois de la voilkte de cieux, 
Et trapa dans sa chftte un long gillon de feux, 
La troape susp^idit sa marche solitaire."* 

Fanatic preachers kept up the flame of terror. Every shooting 
star furnished occasion for a sermon, in which the sublimity of the 
approachiug judgment was the principal topic. 

The appearance of comets has been often thought to foretell the 
speedy dissolution of this world. Part of this belief still exists ; but 
the comet i^ no longer looked upon as the sign, but the agent of de- 
struction. So lately as in the year 1832 the greatest alarm spread 
over the continent of Europe, especially in Germany, lest the comet, 
whose appearance was then foretold by astronomers, should destroy 
the earth. The danger of our globe was gravely discussed. Many 
persons refrained from undertaking or concluding any business during 
that year, in consequence solely of their apprehension that this terri- 
ble comet would dash us and our world to atoms. 

During seasons of great pestilence, men have often believed the 
prophecies of crazed fanatics, that the end of the world was come. 
Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity. During the great 
plague, which ravaged all Europe between the years 1345 and 1350, it 
was generally considered that the end of the world was at baud. Pre- 
tended prophets were to be found in all the principal cities of Ger- 
many, France, and Italy, predicting that within ten years the trump 
of the archangel would sound, and the Saviour appear in the clouds 
to call the earth to judgment. 

Ko little consternation was created in London in 1736 by the 
prophecy of the famous Whiston, that the world would be destroyed 
in that year, on the 13th of October. Crowds of people went out on 
the appointed day to Islington, Hampstead, and the 'fields intervening, 
to see the destruction of London, which was to be the '^ beginning of 
the end." A satirical account of this folly is given in Swift's Mucd- 
laniesy vol. iii., entitled A true and faithful Narrative of what passed 
in London on a Rumour of the Day of JudgmerU. An authentic 
narrative of this delusion would be interesting ; but this solemn wit- 
ticism of Pope and Gay is not to be depended upon. 

* Charlemagne: BoUme ipiqu«, pur Lucien Buonaparte. 



224 XXTBAOKDINA&Y POPULAS DELUSIONS. 

In the year 1761 the citizeDS of London were alarmed by two 
shocks of an earthquake, and the prophecy of a third, which was 
to destroy them altogether. The first shock was felt on the 8th of 
February, and threw down several chinmeys in the neighbourhood 
of Limehouse and Poplar; the second hs^pened on the 8th of Mardi, 
and was chiefly felt in the north of London, and towards Hampstead 
and Highgate. It soon became the subject of general remark, that 
there was exactly an interval of a month between the shocks ; and a 
crack-brained fellow, named Bell, a soldier in the Life Guards, was 
so impressed with the idea that there would be a third in another 
month, that he lost his senses altogether, and ran about the streets 
predicting the destruction of London on the 5th of April. Most 
people thought that the^r^ would have been a more appropriate day ; 
but there were not wanting thousands who confidently believed the 
prediction, and took measures to transport themselves and families 
from the scene of the impending calamity. As the awful day ap- 
proached, the excitement became intense, and great numbers of ere- 
dulous people resorted to aU the villages within a circuit of twenty 
miles, awaiting the doom of London. Islington, Highgate, Hamp- 
stead, Harrow, and Blackheath, were crowded with panic-stricken 
fugitives, who paid exorbitant prices for accommodation to the 
housekeepers of these secure retreats. Such as could not afford to 
pay for lodgings at any of those places, remained in London until 
two or three days before the time, and then encamped in the sur- 
rounding fields, awaiting the tremendous shock which was to lay 
their high city aU level with the dust. As happened during a similar 
panic in the time of Henry YIII., the fear became contagious, and 
hundreds who had laughed at the prediction a week before, packed 
up their goods, when they saw others doing so, and hastened away. 
The river was thought to be a place of great security, and all the 
merchant-vessels in the port were filled with people, who passed the 
night between the 4th and 5th on board, expecting every instant to 
see St. Paul's totter, and the towers of Westminster Abbey rock in 
the wind and &11 amid a cloud of dust. The greater part of the fugi- 
tives returned on the following day, convinced that the prophet was 
a false one ; but many judged it more prudent to allow a week to 
elapse before they trusted their dear limbs in London. Bell lost all 
credit in a short time, and was looked upon even by the most cre- 
dulous as a mere madman. He tried some other prophecies, but no- 
body was deceived by tjiem ; and, in a few months afterwards, he 
was confined in a lunatic asylum. 

A panic terror of the end of the world seized the good people of 
Leeds and its neighbourhood in the year 1806. It arose from the 



MODEEN FBOFH£CIES» 225 

following drcumstances. A hen, in a viUsge close by, laid eggs, 
on which were inscribed the words, " Christ is coming.^'* Great, num- 
bers viMted the spot, and examined these wondrous eggs, con^^nced 
that the day of judgment was near at hand. Like sailors in a storm, 
expecting every instant to go to the bottom, the believers suddenly 
became religious, prayed violently, and flattered themselves that they 
repented them of their evil courses. But a plain tale soon put them 
down, and quenched their religion entirely. Some gentlemen, hear- 
ing of the matter, went one fine morning, and caught the poor hen 
in the act of laying one of her miraculous eggs. They soon ascezsr 
tained beyond doubt, that the egg had been inscribed with some cor- 
rosive ink, and cruelly forced up again into the bird's, body. At this 
explanation, those who had prayed^ now laughed, and the world 
wagged as merrily as of yore. 

At the time of the plague in Milan, inl630,. of which so affecting 
a description hafi been left us by Ripamonte, in his interesting work. 
Be Peste MediclanrUy the people, in^ their disl^ess, listened with avidity 
to the predictions of astrologers and other impostors. It is singular 
enough that the plague was foretold a year before it broke out. A 
large comet appearing in 1628, the opinions of astrologers were divided 
with regard to it. Some insisted that it was a forerunner of a bloody 
war; others maintained that it predicted a great famine; but the 
greater number, founding their judgment upon its pale colour, thought 
it portended a pestilence. The fulfilment of their prediction brought 
them into great repute while the plague was raging. 

Other prophecies were current, which were asserted to have been 
delivered hundreds of years previously. They had a most pernicious 
effect upon the mind of the vulgar, as they induced a belief in fatal- 
ism. By taking away the hope of recovery^ — that greatest balm in 
every malady — they increased threefold the ravages of the disease. 
One singular prediction almost drove the unhappy people mad. An 
ancient couplet, preserved for ages hf tradition, foretold, that in the 
year 1630 the devil would poison all Milan. Early one morning in 
April, and before the pestilence had reached its height, the passengers 
were surprised to see that all the doors in the principal streets of the 
city were marked with a curious daub, or spot, as if a sponge,, filled 
with the purulent matter of the plague-sores, had been pressed against 
them. The whole population were speedily in movement to remark 
the strange appearance, and the greatest alarm spread rapidly* Every 
means was taken to discover the perpetrators, but in vain. At last 
the ancient prophecy was remembered, and prayers were offered up 
in all the churches, that the machinations of the Evil One might be 
defeated. Many persons w.eDe of opinion that the emissariea of foreign 

15 



226 EXTBAOBDIKABT FOFULAB DBLUSIONS. 

powers were employed to spread infections poison over the city ; but 
by far the greater number were convinced that the powers of hell 
had conspired against them, and that the infection was spread by 
supernatural agencies. In the mean time the plague increased fear- 
fully. Distrust and alarm took possession of every mind. Every 
thing wafi believed to have been poisoned by the Devil ; the waters 
of the wells, the standing com in the fields, and the fruit upon the 
trees. It was believed that all objects of touch were poisoned ; thte 
walls of the houses, the pavements of the streets, and the v&y 
handles of the doors. The populace were raised to a pitch of un*- 
governable fury. A strict watch was kept for the Devil's emissanes^ 
and any man who wanted to be rid of an enemy, bad only to saj 
that he had seen him besmearing a door with ointment ; his fate was 
certain death at the hands of the mob. An old man, upwards of 
eighty years of age, a daily frequenter of the church of St. Antonio, 
was seen, on rising from his knees, to wipe with the skirt of his cloak 
the stool on which he was about to sit down. A cry was raised im- 
mediately that he was besmearing the seat with poison. A mob of 
women, by whom the church was crowded, seized hold of the feeble 
old man, and dragged him out by the hair of his head, with horrid 
oaths and imprecations. He was trailed in this manner through the 
mire to the house of the municipal judge, that he might be put to 
the rack, and forced to discover his accomplices ; but he expired on 
the way. Many other victims were sacrificed to the popular fury. 
One Mora, who appears to have been half a chemist and half a barber, 
was accused of being in league with the Devil to poison Milan. His 
house was surrounded, and a number of chemical preparations were 
found. The poor man asserted, that they were intended as preserva- 
tives against infection ; but some physicians, to whom they were sub- 
mitted, declared they were poison. Mora was put to the rack, where 
he for a long time asserted his innocence. He confessed at last, when 
his courage was worn down by torture, that he was in league with 
the Devil and foreign powers to poison the whole city ; that he had 
anointed the doors, and infected the fountains of water. He named 
several persons as his accomplices, who were apprehended and put to 
a similar torture. They were all found guilty, and executed. Mora's 
house was rased to the ground, and a colmnn erected on the spot, 
with an inscription to commemorate his guilt. 

While the public mind was filled with these marvellous occur- 
rences, the plague continued to increase. The crowds that were 
brought together to witness the executions spread the infection 
among one another. But the fury of their passions, and the extent 
of their credulity, kept pace with the violence of the plague ; every 



MODEEN PBOFHBCIES. 227 

wonderful and preposterous story was believed. One, in particular^ 
occupied them to the exclusion, for a long time, of every other. The 
Devil himself had been seen. He had taken a house in Milan, in 
which he prepared his poisonous unguents, and furnished them to his 
emissaries for distribution. One man had brooded over such tales till 
he became firmly convinced that the wild flights of his own fancy 
were realities. He stationed himself in the market-place of Milan, 
and related the following story to the crowds that gathered round 
him. He was standing, he said, at the door of the cathedral, late in 
the evening; and when there was'nobody nigh, he saw a dark-coloured 
chariot, drawn by six milk-white horses, stop close beside him. The 
chariot was followed by a numerous train of domestics in dark liveries, 
mounted on dark-coloured steeds. In the chariot there sat a tall 
stranger of a majestic aspect ; his long black hair floated in the wind 
— fire flashed from his large black eyes, and a curl of ineffable scorn 
dwelt upon his lips. The look of the stranger was so sublime that 
he was awed, and trembled with fear when he gazed upon him. His 
complexion was much darker than that of any man he had ever seen, 
and the atmosphere around him was hot and suffocating. He per- 
ceived immediately that he was a being of another world. The stranger, 
seeing his trepidation, asked him blandly, yet majestically, to mount 
beside him. He had no power to refuse, and before he was well 
aware that he had moved, he found himself in the chariot. Onwards 
they went, with the rapidity of the wind, the stranger speaking no 
word, until they stopped before a door in the high-street of Milan. 
There was a crowd of people in the street, but, to his great surprise, 
no one seemed to notice the extraordinary equipage and its numerous 
train. From this he concluded that they were invisible. The house 
at which they stopped appeared to be a shop, but the interior 
was like a vast half-ruined palace. He went with his mysterious 
guide through several large and dimly-lighted rooms. In one of 
them, surrounded by huge pillars of marble, a senate of ghosts was 
assembled, debating on the progress of the plague. Other parts of 
the building were enveloped in the thickest darkness, illumined at 
intervals by flashes of lightning, which allowed him to distinguish a 
number of gibing and chattering skeletons, running about and pur- 
suing each other, or playing at leap-frog over one another's backs. 
At the rear of the mansion was a wild, uncultivated plot of ground, 
in the midst of which arose a black rock. Down its sides rushed 
with fearful noise a torrent of poisonous water, which, insinuating 
itself through the soil, penetrated to all the springs of the city, and 
rendered them unfit for use. After he had been shewn all this, the 
stranger led him into another large chamber,, filled with gold and 



228 XXTBJLOBDINABT FOFULAS DELUSIONS. 

precious stones, all of which he offered him if he would kneel down 
and worship him, and consent to smear the doors and houses of Milan 
with a pestiferous salve which he held out to him. He now knew 
him to be the DeyU, and in that moment of temptation, prayed to 
God to give him strength to resist. His prayer was heard— he re- 
fused the bribe. The stranger scowled horribly upon him— a loud 
clap of thunder burst over his head — the vivid lightning flashed in 
his eyes, and the next moment he found himself standing alone at 
the porch of the cathedral. He repeated this strange tale day after 
day, without any variation, and all the populace were firm believers 
in its truth. Repeated search was made to discover the mysterious 
house, but all in vain. The man pointed out several as resembling it, 
which were searched by the police ; but the Demon of the Pestilence 
was not to be found, nor the hall of ghosts, nor the poisonous foun- 
tain. But the minds of the people were so impressed with the idea, 
that scores of witnesses, half crazed by disease, came forward to swear 
that they also had seen the diabolical stranger, and had heard Us 
chariot, drawn by the milk-white steeds, rumbling over the streets 
at midnight with a sound louder than thunder. 

The number of persons who confessed that they were employed 
by the Devil to distribute poison is almost incredible. An epidemic 
frenzy was abroad, which seemed to be as contagious as the plague. 
Imagination was as disordered as the body, and day after day persons 
came voluntarily forward to accuse themselves. They generally had 
the marks of disease upon them, and some died in the act of confession. 

During the great plague of London, in 1665, the people list^ied 
with similar avidity to the predictions of quacks and fanatics. Defoe 
says, that at that time the people were more addicted to prophecies 
and astronomical conjurations, dreams, and old wives* tales than eyer 
they were before or since. Almanacs, and their predictions, fr^htened 
them terribly. Even the year before the plague broke out, they were 
greatly alarmed by the comet which then appeared, and anticipated 
that famine, pestilence, or fire would follow. Enthusiasts, while yet 
the disease had made but little progress, ran about the streets, pre- 
dicting that in a few days London would be destroyed. 

A still more singular instance of the faith in predictions occurred 
in London in the year 1524. The city swarmed at that time with 
fortune-tellers and astrologers, who were consulted daily by people of 
every class in society on the secrets of futurity. As early as the month 
of June 1523, several of them concurred in predicting that, on the 
1st day of February 1524, the waters of the Thames would swell to 
such a height as to overflow the whole city of London, and wash away 
ten thousand houses. The prophecy met impUdt belief. It was 



MODEKN FBOP^ECIES. 229 

reiterated with the utmost confidence month after month, until so 
much alarm was excited that many families packed up their goods, 
and removed into Kent and Essex. As the time drew nigh, the 
number of these emigrants increased. In January, droves of work- 
men might be seen, followed by their wives and children, trudging 
on foot to the villages within fifteen or twenty miles, to await the 
catastrophe. People of a higher class were also to be seen in wagons 
and other vehicles bound on a similar errand. By the middle of 
January, at least twenty thousand persons had quitted the doomed 
city, leaving nothing but the bare walls of their homes to be swept 
away by the impendmg floods. Many of the richer sort took up their 
abode on the heights of Highgate, Hampstead, and Blackheath ; and 
some erected tents as far away as Waltham Abbey on the north, and 
Croydon on the south of the Thames. Bolton, the prior of St. Bar- 
tholomew's, was so alarmed, that he erected, at a very great expense^ 
a sort of fortress at Harrow-on-the-Hill, which he stocked with pro- 
visions for two months. On the 24th of January, a week before the 
awful day which was to see the destruction of London, he removed 
thither, with the brethren and officers of the priory and all his house- 
i^old. A number of boats were conveyed in wagons to his fortress, 
furnished abundantly with expert rowers, in case the flood, reaching 
so high as Harrow, should force them to go farther for a resting- 
place. Many wealthy citizens prayed to share his retreat ; but the 
prior, with a prudent forethought, admitted only his personal friends, 
and those who brought stores of eatables for the blockade. 

At last the mom, big with the fate of London, appeared in the 
east. The wondering crowds were astir at an early hour to watch the 
rising of the waters. The inundation, it was predicted, would be 
gradual, not sudden ; so that they expected to have plenty of time 
to escape as soon as they saw the bosom of old Thames heave beyond 
the usual mark. But the majority were too much alarmed to trust 
to this, and thought themselves safer ten or twenty miles off. The 
Thames, unmindful of the foolish crowds upon its banks, flowed on 
quietly as of yore. The tide ebbed at its usual hour, flowed to its 
usual height, and then ebbed again, just as if twenty astrologers had 
not pledged their words to the contrary. Blank were their faces as 
evening approached, and as blank grew the faces of the citizens to 
think that they had made such fools of themselves. At last night set 
in, and the obstinate river would not lift its waters to sweep away 
even one house out of the ten thousand. Still, however, the people 
were afraid to go to sleep. Many hundreds remained up till dawn of 
the next day, lest the deluge should come upon them like a thief in 
the night. 



230 EXTBAOBDDTABY VOVVLAS. DBITJSIONS. 

On the morrow, it was seriously discussed whether it would not 
be advisable to du^ the false prophets in the river. Luckily for 
them, they thought of an expedient which allayed the popular fury. 
They asserted that, by an error (a very slight one,) of a little figure, 
they had fixed the date of this awful inundation a whole century too 
early. The stars were right after all, and they, erring mortals, were 
wrong. The present generation of cockneys was safe, and London 
would be washed away, not in 1624, but in 1624. At this announce- 
ment, Bolton the prior dismantled his fortress, and the weary emi- 
grants came back. 

An eye-witness of the great fire of London, in an account pre- 
served among the Harleian Mss. in the British Museum, and pub- 
lished iu the transactions of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, relates 
another instance of the credulity of the Londoners. The writer, who 
accompanied the Duke of York day by day through the district in- 
cluded between the Fleet-bridge and the Thames, states that, in their 
efforts to cheek the progress of the flames, they were much impeded, 
by the superstition of the people. Mother Shipton, in (me of her pro- 
phecies, had said that London would be reduced to ashes, and they 
refused to make any efforts to prevent it.* A so6 of the noted Sir 
Kenelm Bigby, who was also a pretender to the gifts of prophecy, 
persuaded them that no power on earth could prevent the fulfilment 
of the prediction ; for it was written in the great book of fe-te that 
London was to be destroyed. Hundreds of persons, who might have 
rendered valuable assistance, and saved whole parishes from devasta- 
tion, folded their arms and looked on. As many more gave them- 
selves up, with the less compunction, to plunder a city which they 
could not save.t 

* This prophecy seems to have been that set forth at length in the popular ZA/e of 
other Shipton: « ^j^^^ ^^^ ^ England shall restore 

A king to reign as heretofore, 
Great death in London shall be though, 
And many houses be laid lo?r." 

f The London Saturday Joumai of March 18th, 1842, contains the following >— "An 
absurd report is gaining ground among the weak-minded, that Lond(«i wfll be destroyed 
by an earthquake on the 17th of March, or St. Patrick's day. This rumour is founded on 
the following ancient prophecies : one professing to be pronounced in the year 1203 ; the 
other, by Dr. Dee the astrologer, in 1808 : 

** In eighte^i hundred and forty-two 

Four things the sun shall view r 

London's rich and famous town 

Hungry earth shall swallow down. 

Storm and rain in France shall be» 

Till every river runs a sea. 

Spain shall be rent in twain. 

And famine waste the land again. 



MODXBN FKOPHECIES. 231 

The prophecies of Mother Shipton are still believed in many of the 
rural districts of England. In cottages and servants' halls her repu- 
tation is great ; and she rules, the most popular of British prophets, 
among all the uneducated, or half-educated, portions of the commu- 
nity. She is generally supposed to have been bom at Knaresborough, 
in the reign of Henry VII., and to have sold her soul to the Devil for 
the power of foretelling future events. Though during her lifetime 
she was looked upon as a witch, she yet escaped the witch's fate, and 
died peaceably in her bed at an extreme old age, near Clifton in York- 
shire. A stone is said to have been erected to her memory in the 
churchyard of that place, with the following epitaph ; 

'' Here lies she who never lied, 
Whose skill often has been tried ; 
Her prophecies shall still survive. 
And ever keep her name alive.*' 

" Never a day passed," says her traditionary biography, "wherein 
she did not relate something remarkable, and that required the most 
serious consideration. People flocked to her from far and near, her 
fame was so great. They went to her of all sorts, both old and young,, 
rich and poor, especially young maidens, to be resolved of their doubts 
relating to things to come ; and all returned wonderfully satisfied in 
the explanations she gave to their questions." Among the rest, went 
the Abbot of Beverley, to whom she foretold the suppression of the 
monasteries by Henry VIII., his marriage with Anne Boleyn, the fires 
for heretics in Smithfield, and the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, 
She also foretold the accession of James I., adding that, with himi 

" From the cold North 
Every evil should oome forth." 

So say I, the Monk of Dree, 

In the twelve hundredth year and three.** 

Earleian CoUection {Britiah Museum)^ 800 b, fol. 819. 

" The Lord have mercy on you all — 

Prepare yourselves for dreadful fall 

Of house and land and human soul — 

The measure of your riaa is full. 

In the year one, eight, and forty<4wo. 

Of the year that is so new ; 

In the third month of that sixteen, 

It may be a day or two between — 

Perhaps you'll soon be stiff and cold. 

Dear Christian, be not stout and bold — 

The mighty, kingly-proud will see 

This comes to pass as my name's Dee." 

1688. Ms. in the British Museum, 
The alarm of the population of London did not on this occasion extend beyond the wide 
circle of the uneducated classes, but among them it equalled that recorded in the text It 
was soon afterwards stated that no such prophecy is to be found In the Harleian Ms. 



232 EXTBAOBDINABT FOFULAB DELTJSIOITS. 

On a subsequent vint she uttered another prophecy, which, in the 
opinion of her beKevers, still remains unfulfilled, but may be expected 
to be realised during the present century : 

'** The time shall come when seas of hlood 
Shall mingle with a greater flood. 

Great noise there shall be heard — great shonts and cries, 
And seas shall thmider louder than the skies ; 
Then shall three lions fight with three and bring 
Joy to a people, honour to a king. 
'That fiery year as soon as o'er, 
•Peace shall then be as before ; 
Plenty shall every where be found. 
And men with swords shall plough the ground." 

But the most famous of all her prophecies is one relating to London. 
Thousands of persons still shudder to think of the woes that are to 
burst over this unhappy realm, when London and Highgate are joined 
by one continuous line of houses. This junction, which, if the rage 
for building lasts much longer, in the same proportion as heretofore, 
bids fair to be soon accomplished, was predicted by her shortly before 
her death. Revolutions — the fall of mighty monarchs, and the shed- 
ding of much blood are to signalise that event. The very angels, 
afflicted by our woes, are to turn aside their heads, and weep for hap' 
less Britain. 

But great as is the fame of Mother Shipton, she ranks but second 
in the list of British prophets. Merlin, the mighty Merlin, stands 
alone in his high pre-eminence — the first and greatest. As old Dray- 
ton sings, in his Poly-olbion : 

" Of Merlin and his skill what region doth not hear? 
The world shall still be full of Merlin every year. 
A thousand lingering years his prophecies have run. 
And scarcely shall have end till time its€llf be done." 

Spenser, in his divine poem, has given us a powerful description of 
this renowned seer — 

" who had in magic more insight 
Than ever him before, or after, living wight. 

For he by words could call out of the sky 

Both sun and moon, and make them him obey ; 
The land to sea, and sea to mainland dry. 

And darksome night he eke could turn to day — 

Huge hosts of men he could, alone, dismay. 
And hosts of men and meanest things could frame, 

Whenso him list his enemies to fray. 
That to this day, for terror of his name. 
The fiends do quake, when any him to them does name. 



HODEB^ ?BOPHECIES. 233 

And soothe m^i say that he was not the sonne 

Of mortal sire or other living wighte. 
But wondrously begotten and "begoune 

By false illusion of a guileful sprite 

On a faire ladye nun." 

In these verses the poet has preserved the popular l)elief with regard 
to Merlin, who is generally supposed to have been a contemporary of 
Vortigem. Opinion is divided as to whether he were a real person- 
age, or a mere impersonation, formed by the poetic fancy of a credu- 
lous people. It seems most probable that such a man did exist, and 
that, possessing knowledge as much above the comprehension of his 
age, as that possessed by Friar Bacon was beyond the reach of his, he 
was endowed by the wondering crowd with the supernatural attri- 
butes that Spenser has enumerated. 

QeofErey of Monmouth translated Merlin's poetical odes, or pro- 
phecies, into Latin prose ; and he was much reverenced not only by 
Geoffrey, but by most of the old annalists. In a Life ofMerUn^ with 
his Prophecies and Predictions interpreted and made good hy our Eng- 
lish Annals, by Thomas Hey wood, published in the reign of Charles I., 
we find several of these pretended prophecies. They seem, however, 
to have been all written by Heywood himself. They are in terms 
too plain and positive to allow any one to doubt for a moment of 
their having been composed ex po^ facto. Speaking of Richard I., 

he says: 

" The Lion's heart will 'gainst the Saracen rise. 
And purchase from him many a glorious prize ; 
The rose and lily shall at first imite. 
But, parting of the prey prove opposite. • ♦ * 
But while abroad these great £U3ts shall be done. 
All things at home shall to disorder run. 
Cooped up and caged then shall the Lion be, 
But, after sufferance, ransomed and set free." 

The simple-minded Thomas Heywood gravely goes on to inform us, 
that all these things actually came to pass. Upon Kichard III. he is 
equally luminous. He says : 

" A hunch-hacked monster, who with teeth is bom. 
The. mockery of art and nature's scorn ; 
Who from the womb preposterously is hurled. 
And with feet forward thrust into the world. 
Shall, from the lower earth on which he stood, 
Wade, every step he moimts, knee-deep in blood. 
He shall to th' height of all his hopes aspire. 
And, clothed in state, his ugly shape admire ; 
But, when he thinks himself most safe to stand. 
From foreign parts a native whelp shall land." 



234 EXTBAOBBINA&T POPULAA DBLUSIONS. 

Another of these prophecies after the event tells us that Henty 
VIII. should take the power from Rome, " and bring it home unto 
his British bower ;" that he should " root out from the land all the 
razored skulls ;^' and that he should neither spare ^^ man in his rage 
nor woman in his lust ;" and that, in the time of his next successor 
but one, 'Hhere should come in the fagot and the stake." Master 
Heywood closes Merliu's prophecies at his own day, and does not give 
even a glimpse of what was to befall England after his decease. Many 
other prophecies, besides those quoted by him, were, he says, dis- 
persed abroad, in his day, under the name of MerHn ; but he gives 
his readers a taste of one only, and that is the following : 

<f When hempe is ripe and ready to puU^ 
Then^ Englishman, beware thy skull." 

This prophecy, which, one would think, ought to have put him in 
mind of the gallows, at that time the not unusual fate of false pro- 
phets, he explains thus : '^ In this word hempe be five letters. Now, 
by reckoning the five successive princes from Henry VIII., this pro- 
phecy is easily explained : H signifieth King Henry before-named ; 
E, Edward, his son, the sixth of that name ; M, Mary, who succeeded 
him ; P, Philip of Spain, who, by marrying Queen Mary, participated 
with her in the English diadem ; and, lastly, E signifieth Queen Eli- 
zabeth, after whose death there was a great feare that some troubles 
might have arisen about the crown." As this did not happen, Hey- 
wood, who was a sly rogue in a small way, gets out of the scrape by 
saying, " Yet proved this augury true, though not according to the 
former expectation ; for, after the peaceful inauguration of King 
James, there was great mortality, not in London only, but through 
the whole kingdom, and from which the nation was not quite clean 
in seven years after." 

This is not unlike the subterfuge of Peter of Pontefract, who had 
prophesied the death and deposition of King John, and who was 
hanged by that monarch for his pains. A very graphic and amusing 
account of this pretended prophet is given by Grafton, in his Chro^ 
nicies of JSn^land,* " In the meanwhile," says he, " the priestes 
within England had provided them a false and counterfeated pro- 
phet, called Peter Wakefielde, a Yorkshire man, who was an hermite, 
an idle gadder about, and a pratlyng marchant. Now, to bring this 
Peter in credite, and the kyng out of all credite with his people, di- 
verse vaine persons bruted dayly among the commons of the reaJme, 
that Christe had twice appered unto him in the shape of a childe, 
betwene the prieste's handes, once at Yorke, another tyme at Pom- 

* ChronicUs o/England^ hf Hichaitl Qrafton; London, 1B68» p. IM. 



KODBBir FSOPHXcnsa. 235 

^t; and that he had breathed upon him thrioe, saying, ^ Peace, 
peace, peace, and teachyng many things, which he anon declared to 
the bishops, and bid the people amend their naughtie Uving. Being 
rapt also in spirite, they sayde he behelde the joyes of heaven and 
sorrowes of hell ; for scant were there three in the realme, sayde he, 
that lived ohristianly. 

'^ This counterfeated soothsayer prophesied of King John, that 
he should reigne no longer than the Ascension-day next followyng, 
which was in the yere of our Lord 1211, and was the thirteenth yere 
from his coronation ; and this, he said, he had by revelation. Then 
it was of him demanded, whether he should be slaine or be deposed, 
or should voluntarily give over the crowne ? He aunswered, that he 
could not tell ; but of this he was sure (he sayd), that neither he nor 
any of his stock or lineage should reigne after that day. 

" The king, hering of this, laughed much at it, and made but a 
scoff thereat. * Tush !' saith he, * it is but an ideot knave, and such 
an one as lacketh his right wittes.' But when this foolish prophet 
had so escaped the daunger of the kinge's displeasure, and that he 
made no more of it, he gate him abroad, and prated thereof at large, 
as he was a very idle vagabond, and used to trattle and talke more 
than ynough ; so that they which loved the king caused him anon 
after to be apprehended as a malefactor, and to be throwen in prison, 
the kiQg not yet knowing thereof. 

*' Anone after the fame of this phantasticall prophet went all the 
realme over, and his name was knowen every where, as foolishnesse is 
much regarded of the people, where wisdome is not in place j specially 
because he was then imprisoned for the matter, the rumour was the 
larger, their wonderynges were the wantoner, their practises the fool- 
isher, their busye talkes and other idle doinges the greater. Continu- 
ally from thence, as the rude manner of people is, old gossyps tales 
went abroad, new tales were invented, fables were added to fables, 
and lyes grew upon lyes. So that every daye newe slanders were 
laide upon the king, and not one of them true. Rumors arose, blas- 
phemy es were sprede, the enemyes rejoyced, and treasons by the 
priestes were mainteyned ; and what lykewise was surmised, or other 
subtiltye practised, all was then fathered upon this foolish prophet, as 
* thus saith Peter Wakefield ;' * thus bath he prophesied ;' * and thus 
it shall come to pass ;' yea, many times, when he thought nothing 
lesse. And when the Ascension-day was come, which was prophecyed 
of before. King John commanded his royal tent to be spread in the 
open fielde, passing that day with his noble counseyle and men of 
honour in the greatest solemnitie that ever he did before ; solacing 
himself with musickale instrumentes and songs, most in sight among 



236 EXTBAOBSINABY POFULAS DELUSIONS. 

his tnistie friendes. When that day was paste in all prosperitie and 
myrth, his enemyes heing confused, turned all into an allegorical 
understanding to make the prophecie good, and savde, 'He is no 
longer king, for the pope reigneth, and not he.' [King John was 
labouring under a sentence of excommunication at the time.] 

'^ Then was the king by his council perswaded that this false pro- 
phet had troubled the realme, perverted the heartes of the people, 
and raysed the Commons against him ; for his wordes went over the 
sea, by the help of his prelates, and came to the French king's eare,, 
and gave to him a great encouragement to invade the lande. H« 
had not else done it so sodeinely. But he was most fowly deceived,, 
as all they are and shall be that put their trust in such dark drowsye 
dreames of hipocrites. The king therefore commended that he should 
be hanged up, and his sonne also with him, lest any more false pro- 
phets should arise of that race." 

Haywood, who was a great stickler for the truth of all sorts of 
prophecies, gives a much more favourable account of this Peter of 
Pomfret, or Pontefract, whose fate he would, in all probability, have 
shared, if he had had the misfortune to have flourished in the same 
age. He says, that Peter, who was not only a prophet, but a bard, 
predicted divers of King John's disasters, which fell out accordingly. 
On being taxed for a l3dng prophet in having predicted that the king 
would be deposed before he entered into the fifteenth year of his 
reign, he answered him boldly, that all he had said was justifiable 
and true ; for that,, having given up his crown to the pope, and pay- 
ing him an annual tribute, the pope reigned, and not he. Heywood 
thought this explanation to be perfectly satisfactory, and the pro- 
phet's faith forever established. 

But to return to Merlin. Of him even to this day it may be 

said, in the words which Bums has applied to another notorious 

personage, 

" Great was his power and great his fame ; 
Far kenned and noted is his name." 

His reputation is by no means confined to the land of his birth, 
but extends through most of the nations of Europe. A very curious 
volume of his Idfej Prophecies, and Mirczdes, written, it is supposed, 
by Robert de Bosron, was printed at Paris in 1498, which states, that 
the devil himself was his father, and that he spoke the instant he 
was bom, and assured his mother, a very virtuous young woman, that 
she should not die in childbed with him, as her Ul-natured neigh- 
bours had predicted. The judge of the district, hearing of so mar- 
vellous an occurrence, summoned both mother and child to appear 
before him ; and they went accordingly the same day. To put the 



HOD£BN FEOFHECBBS. 237 

wisdom of the young prophet most effectually to the test, the judge 
asked him if he knew his own father ? To which the infant Merlin 
replied, in a clear, sonorous voice, ^^ Yes, my father is the Devil ; and 
I have his power, and know all things, past, present, and to come.*' 
His worship clapped his hands in astonishment, and took the pru- 
dent resolution of not molesting so awful a child or its mother either. 

Early tradition attributes the building of Stonehenge to the power 
of Merlin. It was believed that those mighty stones were whirled 
through the air, at his command, from Ireland to Salisbury Plain ; 
and that he arranged them in the form in which they now stand, to 
commemorate for ever the unhappy fate of three hundred British 
chiefs, who were massacred on that spot by the Saxons. 

At Abergwylly, near Carmarthen, is still shewn the cave of the 
prophet and the scene of his incantations. How beautiful is the de- 
scription of it given by Spenser in his Faerie Queene / The lines need 
no apology for their repetition here, and any sketch of the great pro- 
phet of Britain wo\ild be incomplete without them : 

" There the wise Merlin, whilom wont (they say^) 
To make his wonne low imdemeath the ground^ 
In a deep delve far from the view of day. 
That of no living wight he mote be fo\md, 
Whenso he counselled with his sprites encompassed round. 

And if thou ever happen that same way 

To travel, go to see that dreadful place ; 
It is a hideous, hollow cave, they say. 
Under a rock that lies a little space 
From the swift Barry, tumbling down apace 
Amongst the woody hills of Dynevoure ; 
But dare thou not, I charge, in any case. 
To enter into that same baleful bower, 
For fear the cruel fiendes should thee unwares devour 1 

But, standing high aloft, low lay thine eare. 
And there such ghastly noise of iron chaines 
And brazen caudrons thou shalt rombling heare. 
Which thousand sprites with long-enduring paines 
Doe tosse, that it will stun thy feeble braines ; 
And often times great groans and grievous stownds. 
When too huge toile and labour them constraines ; 
And often times loud strokes and ringing sounds 
From under that deep rock most horribly rebounds. 

The cause, they say, is this. A little while 
Before that Merlin died, he did intend 
A brazen waJl in compass, to compile 
About Cayr Merdin, and did it conmiend 
Unto these sprites to bring to perfect end ; 



238 XXTBAOKDINAB.T P0PT7LAJL DXLUSI0V8. 

During which work the Lady of the Lake^ 

Whom long he loved^ for him in haste did send^ 
Who thereby forced his workmen to forsake, 
Them bound till his return their labour not to slake. 

In the mean time, through that false ladie's traine. 

He was surprised, and buried under biere, 
Ne ever to his work returned again ; 

Natheless these fiendes may not their work forbeare. 

So greatly his commandement they fear, 
'But there doe toUe and travaile day and nighty 

Until that brazen wall they up doe reare."* 

Amongst other English prophets, a belief in whose power has not 
been entirely effaced by the light of advancing knowledge, is Robert 
Nixon, the Cheshire idiot, a contemporary of Mother Shipton. The 
popular accounts of this man say, that he was bom of poor parents, 
not far from Vale Royal, on the edge of the forest of Delamere. He 
was brought up to the plough, but was so ignorant and stupid, that 
nothing could be made of him. Every body thought him irretriev- 
ably insane, and paid no attention to the strange, unconnected dis- 
courses which he held. Many of his prophecies are believed to have 
been lost in this manner. But they were not always destined to be 
wasted upon dull and inattentive ears. An incident occurred which 
brought him into notice, and established his fame as a prophet of the 
first calibre. He was ploughing in a field when he suddenly stopped 
from his labour, and with a wild look and strange gesture, exclaimed, 
*' Now, Dick ! now, Harry ! 0, iU done, Dick ! 0, wdt done, Barry ! 
Harry ha^ gained the day /" His fellow-labourers in the field did not 
know what to make of this rhapsody; but the next day cleared up 
the mystery. News was brought by a messenger, in hot haste, that 
at the very instant when Nixon had thus ejaculated, Richard III. 
had been slain at the battle of Bosworth, and Henry VII. proclaimed 
king of England. 

It was not long before the fame of the new prophet reached the 
ears of the king, who expressed a wish to see and'converse with him. 
A messenger was accordingly despatched to bring him to court ; but 
long before he reached Cheshire, Nixon knew and dreaded the hon- 
ours that awaited him. Indeed it was said, that at the very instant 
the king expressed the wish, Nixon was, by supernatural means, 
made acquainted with it, and that he ran about the town of Over 
in great distress of mind, calling out, like a madman, that Henry 
had sent for him, and that he must go to court, and be clammedy 
that is, starved to death. These expressions excited no little won- 

• FaeriB QueeWj b. 3^ c. 8, fl. 6-18. 



MODBBN FBOPH£CI£S. 239 

der ; but, on the third day, the messeDger arrived, and carried him 
to court, leaving on the minds of the good people of Cheshire an im- 
pression that their prophet was one of the greatest ever bom. On 
his arrival King Henry appeared to be troubled exceedfiigly at the 
loss of a valuable diamond, and asked Kixon if he could inform him 
where it was to be found. Henry had hidden the diamond himself, 
with a view to test the prophet's skill. Great, therefore, was his 
surprise when Kixon answered him in the words of the old proverb, 
'* Those who hide can find." From that time forth the king im- 
plicitly believed that he had the gift of prophecy, and ordered all his 
words to be taken down. 

During all the time of his residence at court he was in constant 
fear of being starved to death, and repeatedly told the king that such 
would be his fate, if he were not allowed to depart, and return into 
his own country. Henry would not suffer it, but gave strict orders 
to all his officers and cooks to give him as much to eat as he wanted. 
He lived so well, that for some time he seemed to be thriving like a 
nobleman's steward, and growing as fat as an alderman. One day 
the king went out hunting, when Nixon ran to th§ palace gate, and 
entreated on his knees that he might not be left behind to be stainred. 
The king laughed, and calling an officer, told him to take especial 
care of the prophet during his absence, and rode away to the forest. 
After his departure, the servants of the palace began to jeer at and 
insult Nixon, whom they imagined to be much better treated than 
he deserved. Nixon complained to the officer, who, to prevent him 
from being further molested, locked him up in the king's own closet, 
and brought him regularly his four meals a day. But it so happened 
that a messenger arrived from the king to this officer, requiring his 
immediate presence at Winchester, on a matter of life and death. 
So great was his haste to ol>ey the king's command, that he mounted 
on the horse behind the messenger, and rode off, without bestowing 
a thought upon poor Nixon. He did not jpetum till three days after- 
wards, when, remeidbering the prophet for the first time, he went to 
the king's closet, and found him lying upon the floor, starved to death, 
as he had predicted. 

Among the prophecies of his which are believed to have been ful- 
filled are the following, which relate to the times of the Pretender : 

'* A great man shall come into England, 
But the son of a king 
SJiall take from him the victory" 



t< 



Crows shall drink the blood of many nobles, 
And the North shall rise against the South." 



240 EXTEAOBDIVAIIT FOFULAS, DELUSIONS. 

" The eo€k of the North shaM be made to flee, 
And hie feather be plucked for his pride, 
That he shall almott curse the day that he was born" 

All these, lay his admirers, are as clear as the sun at noon-day. 
The first denotes the defeat of Prince Charles Edward, at the battle 
of Oulloden, by the Duke of Cumberland ; the second, the execution 
of Lords Derwentwater, Balmerino, and LoYat ; and the third, the 
retreat of the Pretender from the shores of Britain. Among the pro- 
phecies thai still remain to be accomplished are the following : 

" Between seven, eight, and nine^ 
In England wonders shall be seen; 
Between nine and thirteen 
All sorrow shall be dene,** 

" Through our own money and our men 
Shall a dreadful war begin. 
Between the sickle and the sttck 
All England shall have a pluck" 

" Foreign nations shall invade England with snow on their helmets, and 
shall bring plague, famine, and murder in the skirts of their garments,** 

" The town of Nanlwich shall be swept away by a flood." 

Of the two first of these no explanation has yet been attempted; 
but some event or other will doubtless be twisted into such a shape 
as will fit them. The thirds relative to the invasion of England by 
a nation with snow on their helmets, is supposed by the old women 
to foretell most clearly a coming war with Russia. As to the last, 
there are not a few in the town mentioned who devoutly believe that 
such will be its fate. Happily for their peace of mind, the prophet 
said nothing cf the year that was to witness the awful calamity ; so 
that they think it as likely to be two centuries hence as now. 

The popular biographers of Mxon conclude their account of him 
by saying, that ** his prophecies are by some persons thought fables ; 
yet by what has come to pass, it is now thought, ^nd very plainly ap- 
pears, that most of them have proved, or will prove, true ; for which 
we, on all occasions, ought not only to exert our utmost might to 
repel by force our enemies, but to refrain from our abandoned and 
wicked course of hfe, and to make our continual prayer to God for 
protection and safety." To this, though a non sequitur, every one 
will cry, Amen 1 

Besides the prophets, there have been the almanac-makers Lilly, 
Poor Robin, Partridge, and Francis Moore physician, in England 
and Matthew Laensbergh, in France and Belgium. But great as 
were their pretensions, they were modesty itself in comparison with 



UODEEH EBOFHECIES. 291 

Merlin, ShiptOB, and Niion, who fixed their minds upon higher 
thioga than the weather, and were not so restrained as to prophee; 
for onlj one year at a. time. After such prophets the ahnanac-makecft 
hardlj deeerre to be mentioned ; not even the renowned Partridge, 
whose prognostications eet all England agog in 1708, and whose 
death while still alive was so pleasantly and satisfactorily proved 
by Isaac Bickerataff. The anti-climai would be too palpable, and 
they and their doiuga must be left uncummemorated. 



• Alttoogli oUier placw claim UiB honour (!) of Mother Bhiplon'e htrtJi, ier rest; 
enm is aaMrt«d, by oral IradUlon, lo ha«e Dmo fOr msny yam a ctittogB al WiDslow- 
mm-Bblpton, in Buckinghumibire, of irtiEch -th* sbove U a repreientalloa.- We giia tba 

Tic Slrangi and Wmder/sl Riiwy aad /Vi>fA«iM 0/ MoUiir Shipltm, plai>i!jl liUfii^ 
farthier Bsrlli, Life, Daiih, and Burial. ISmo. Hewcaatle. Chap. I.— Of her Wrth Mid pa- 
nnUgt.. s. HowMoUier Shipton's mother proved ~lth child; hov she fined Ihejastic*, 
nod what happened at her delivcTy. 3. By vhat name Mother ahip^n vaa chriBtei>ed» 

Shlplon In revenge of aachMsbmed her. 5. How Urmia marrieti'a young man named. 
Tohlaa Bhipten, and hoir atnmgely ihe dlKorered a thief. 8.. Her pmphecy ag^mt 
Cardinal Wolaey, T. Some. other pnpbedei of Uothei Sbiplon ndatiOK lo those timesi 
& Her pTophedee in Terse lo the Abbot of Beverly. 8. Mother Sblplana life, deatii 

16 



242 



FORTUNE-TELLING. 



And men still grope t' anticipate 
The cabinet designs of Fate; 
Apply to wizards to foresee 
What ^all and irhat shall never he. 

JETiidifoYu, part ilL canto 3. 

In acoordanoe with the plan laid down, we proceed to the considera- 
tion of the follies into which men have been led l>y their eager desire 
to pierce the thick darkness of futurity. God himself, for his own 
wise puiposes, has more than once undrawn the impenetrable veil 
which CiisoudB those awful secrets; and, for purposes just as wise, 
he has decreed that, except in these instances, igaoranee shall be our 
lot for ever. It is happy for man that he does not know what the 
morrow is to bring forth; but, unaware of this great blessing, he 
has, in all ages of the wotld, presumptuouriy endeavoured to trace 
the events of unborn centuries, and anticipate the march of time. 
He has reduced this presumption into a study. He has divided it 
into sciences and systems without number, employing his whole life 
in the vain pursuit. Upon no subject has it been so easy to deceive 
the world as upon this. In every breast the curiosity exists in a 
greater or less degree, and can only be conquered by a l<mg course of 
self-examination, and a fiim seliance that the future would not be 
hidden from our sight, if it were right that we should be acquainted 
with it. 

An imdue opinion of our own importance in the scale of creation 
is at the bottom of all our imwarrantable notions in this respect. 
How flattering to the pride of man to think that the stars in their 
courses watch over him, and typify, by their movements auid aspects, 
the joys or the soirows that await himl He, less in proportion to 
the universe than the ail-but invisible insects that feed in myriads on 
a summer's leaf are to this great globe itself, fondly imagines that 
eternal worlds were chiefly created to prognosticate his fate. How 
we should pity the arrogance of the worm that crawls at our feet, if 
we knew that it also desired to know the secrets of futurity, and im- 
agined that meteors shot athwart the sky to warn it that a tom-tit 
was hovering near to gobble it up; that storms and earthquakes, the 



FOBTTTNE-TEUINO. 248 

revolutions of empires, or the fall of mighty monarchs, only happened 
to predict its birth, its progress, and its decay 1 Not a whit less pre- 
suming has man shewn himself; not a whit less arro^nt are the 
sciences, so called, of astrology, augury, necramanoy, geomancy, palm- 
istry, and divination of every kind. 

Leaving out of view the oracles of pagan antiquity and religious 
predictions in general, and confining ourselves solely to the persons 
who, in modem times, have made themselves most coD£fpicuous in 
foretelling the future, we shall find that the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries were the golden age of t^ese impostors. Many of them 
have been already mentioned in their diaracter of alchymists. The 
union of the two pretensions is not at aU surprising. It was to be 
expected that those who assumed a power so preposterouft 9^ that of 
prolonging the life of man for several centuries, should pretend, at 
the same time, to foretell the events which were to mst^k that preter- 
natural span of existence. ' The world would as res^y believe that 
they had discovered all secrets, as that they had only ^scovered one. 
The most celebrated astrologers of Europe, three centuries ago, were 
alchymists. Agrippa, Paracelsus, Dr. Dee, and the Bosicrucians, all 
laid as much stress upon their knowledge of the days to come, as upon 
their pretended possession of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of 
life. In their time, ideas of the wonderful, the diabolical, and the 
supernatural, were rifer than ever they were before. The devil or the 
stars were universally believed to meddle constantly in the affairs of 
men ; and both were to be consulted with proper ceremonies. Those 
who were of a melancholy and gloomy temperament betook them- 
selves to necromancy and sorcery; those more cheerful and aspiring 
devoted themselves to astrology. The latter science was encouraged 
by all the monarchs and governments of that age. In England, from 
the time of Elizabeth to that of William and Mary, judicial astrology 
was in high repute. During that period flourished Drs. Dee, Lamb, 
and Forman ; with Lilly, Booker, Gadbury , Evans, and scores of dame- 
less impostors in every considerable town and village in the country, 
who made it their business to cast nativities, aid in the recovery 
of stolen goods, prognosticate happy or unhappy marriages, predict 
whether journeys would be prosperous, and note lucky moments for 
the commencement of any enterprise, from the setting up of a cobbler's 
shop to the marching of an army. Men who, to use the words of 
Butler, did 

" Deal in Destiny's dark counsel^ 
And sage opinion of the moon sell ; 
To whom all people far and near 
On deep importance did repair. 



EXTBAOBDtBAKI FOFULAS BELUSIOKS. 



In Lilly's Memoirs of hi» Life and Timet, there are many notice! 
of the inferior quacks who then abounded, and upon whom he pre- 
tended to look down with supreme contempt; not because they were 
aatrologen, but because they debased that noble art by taking fees for 
the recovery of stolen property. From Butler's Hudiirat, and its 
cnrioUB notes, we may learn what immense numbers of these fellows 
lived upon the credulity of mankind in that 
age of witchcraft and diablerie. Even in 
I day, how great is the reputation en- 
joyed by the almanac -makers, who asannie 
the name or Francis JMpore 1 But in the 
time of Charlea I. and the Commonwealth 
the most learned, the most noble, and the 
most conspicuous characters did not hesi- 
tate to consult astrologers in the most open 
manner. Lilly, whom Butler has immor- 
talised under the name of 8ydrophel, re- 
lates, that he proposed to write a work 
called An IrUroduction to Aitrology, in 
"iiiicii iiDfiai,* which he would satisfy the whole king- 

dom of the lawfulness of that art. Many 
of the soldiers were for it, he says, and many of the Independ- 
ent party, and abundance of worthy men in the House of Com- 
mons, his assured friends, and able to take his part against the 
Presbyterians, who would have silenced bis predictions if they could. 
He afterwards carried his plan into execution, and when his book was 
pubUshed, went with another astrologer named Booker to the head- 
quarters of the parliamentary army at Windsor, where they wtxe 
welcomed and feasted in the garden where General Fairfax lodged. 
Theywereafterwardsintroduced to the general, who received them very 
kindly, and made allusion to some of their predictions. He hoped their 
art was lawful and sgreeable to God's word ; but he did not under- 
stand it himself. He did not doubt, however, that the two astrologera 
feared Qod, and therefore he had a good opinion of them. Lilly as- 
sured him that the art of astrology was quite consonant to the Scrip- 
tures; and confidently predicted from his knowledge of the stars, 
that the parliamentary army would overthrow all its enemies. In 
Oliver's Protectorate, this quack informs us that he wrote freely 
enough. He became an Independent, and all the soldiety were his 
friends. When he went to Scotland, he saw a soldier standing in 
front of the army with a book of prophecies in his hand, exclaiming 



FOETUNE-TELLING. 2 i 5 

to the several companies as they passed bj him, '^Lo! hear what 
Lilly saith : you are in this month promised victory ! Fight it out, 
brave boys ! and then read that month's prediction ! " 

After the great fire of London, which Lilly said he had foretold, 
he was sent for by the committee of the House of Commons appointed 
to inquire into the causes of the calamity. In his Monarchy or no 
Monarchy, published in 1651, he had inserted an hieroglyphical plate 
representing on one side persons in winding-sheets digging graves ; 
and on the other a large city in flames. After the great fire, some 
sapient member of the legislature bethought him of Lilly's book, and 
having mentioned it in the house, it was agreed that the astrologer 
ahould be summoned. Lilly attended accordingly, when Sir Robert 
Brook told him the reason of his summons, and called upon him to 
declare what he knew. This was a rare opportunity for the vain- 
glorious Lilly to vaunt his abilities ; and he began a long speech in 
praise of himself and his pretended science. He said that, after the 
execution of Charles I., he was extremely desirous to know what 
might from that time forth happen to the parliament and to the 
nation in general. He therefore consulted the stars, and satisfied 
himself. The result of his judgment he put into emblems and hiero- 
glyphics, without any commentary, so that the true meaning might 
be concealed from the vulgar, and. made manifest only to the wise ; 
imitating in this the example of many wise philosophers who had done 
the like. 

" Did you foresee the year of the fire ?" said a member. " No," 
quoth Lilly, * * nor was I desirous. Of that I made no scrutiny. " After 
some further parley, the house found they could make nothing of the 
astrologer, and dismissed him with great civility. 

One specimen of the explanation of a prophecy given by Lilly, and 
related by him with much complacency, wiU be sufficient to shew the 
sort of trash by which he imposed upon the million. " In the year 
1588," says he, "there was a prophecy printed in Greek characters, 
exactly deciphering the long troubles of the English nation from 1641 
to 1660." And it ended thus : "And after him shall come a dread- 
ful dead man, and with him a royal G, of the best blood in the world; 
and he shall have the crown, and shall set England on the right way, 
and put out all heresies." The following is the explanation of tlds 
oracular absurdity : 

*^ Monkery hein>g extingmshed above eighty or ninety years, and the 
Lord OeneraTs name being Monk, is the dead man. The royal G or G 
[it is gamrrta in the Greek, intending C in the LcUin, being the third 
letter in the alphabet] is Charles II,, who for his extraction may be said 
to be of the best blood of the worldJ^ 



24S' 

In France and Germany astrologers met even more enconragement 
than they received in Engl&nd, In \eej esrly ogee Charlemagne and 
his Buccessors fulminated their wrath against them in common with 
Boroerers. Louis XI, , that most superBtitious of men, entertained great 
numbers of them at his court ; and Catherine de Medids, that most 
niperstitious of women, hardlj ever undertook anj affair of importance 
without coMuiting them. She chiefly favoured her own countrymen ; 
Bnd during the time she governed Fiance, the land was overrun by 
Italian conjurors, necromancers, and foitune-telleis of every kind. 
But the chief astrologer of 
that day, beyond all doubt, 
was the celebrated Nostra- 
damus, physician to her 
husband. King Henty II. 
He was bom in 1503 at 
the town of St. Remi, in 
Provence, where his father 
was a notary. He did not 
acquire much fame till he 
I was ipast his fiftieth year, 
I when his famous CWa- 
tUi, a collection of verBes, 
written in obscure and al- 
most unintelligihle lan- 
I guage, began to excite at- 
j tention. They were bo 
much spoken of in 1556, 
that Henry II. resolved 
to attach bo skilful a man 
to his service, and appoint- 
ed him his physician. In 
a biographical notice of 
him, prefixed to the edi- 
tion of his FjwiMCimiBriM, 
published at Amsterdam 
of.,ir.o»>.'^r,/irAi«^r»™iI«ViiAi™'ie«-''" ^ ISSS, we are informed 
that he often discoursed 
with his royal master on the secrets of fiiturity, and received many 
great presents as bis reward, besides his usual allowance for medical 
attendance. After the death of Henry he retired to his native plac«, 
where Charles IX. paid him a visit in 1S64; and was so impressed 
with veneration for hie wondrous knowledge of the things that were 
to he, not in France only, but in the whole world for hundreds ot 



fOaTUNE-TELLING. 247 

years to come, that he made him a counsellor oC state and hi» own 
physician, hesides treating him in other matters with a royal libe-' 
rality. '^ In fine," continues his biographer, *^ I should be too proli:s- 
were I to tell all the honours conferred upon him, and all the great 
nobles and learned men that arrived at his houfie from the very end» 
of the earth, to see and converse with him as if he had been an^ oraclev 
Many strangers, in &ct, came to^ France for no other purpose than to 
consult him.'* 

The prophecies of Nostradamus consist of upwards of a thousand 
stanzas, each of four lines, and are to the full as obscure as the oracle» 
of old. They take so great a latitude, both as to time and space, that 
they are almost sure to be fulfilled somewhere ox other in- the course 
of a few centuries. A little ingenuity, like thai evinced by Idlly in 
his explanation about General Monk and the dreadful dead man, might 
easily make events to fit some of them.* 

He is to this day extremely popular in France and the Walloon 
country of Belgium, where old farmer- wives consult him with great* 
confidence and assiduity. 

Catherine di Medicis was not the only member of her illustrious^ 
house who entertained astrologers. At the beginning of the fifteenth 
century there was a man, named Basil, residing in Florence, who was 
noted over all Italy for his skill in piercing the darkness of futurity. 
It is said that he foretold to Cosmo di Medicis, then a private citizen, 
that he would attain high dignity, inasmuch as the ascendant of his 
nativity was adorned with the same propitious aspects as those of 
Augustus Ceesar and the Emperor Charles V.t Another astrologer 
foretold the death of Prince Alexander di Medicis; and so very mi- 
nute and particular was he in all the circumstances, that he was sus- 
pected of being chiefly instruments^ in fulfilling his own proj^ieey — ■ 

* Let tiB try. In bis second century, prediction 66, he toys : ' 

'' From great dungers the captive is escaped. - 
A little time, great fortune changed. • 
In the palace the people are cahght. 
By good augury the city is bftsieg^d."' 

" What is this,^^ a believer might exclaim, "1>ut this escape of 'Napoleon from Elha-^hla' 
changed fortune, and the occupation of Paris by the allied armies?" 
Let us try again. In his third century, prediction 96, he says : 

" Two royal brothers will make fierce war on each- other; 
So mortal shall be the strife between them, 
That each one shall occupy a fort against the other; 
For their reign and lif^ shall be the q^orrelJ* 

Some LiHiiiK Bedivi^txs wonkl find no diftoulty i& this predieUoa. To iu» a mlgar 
phrase, it is as clear an a pikestaff. Bad not ther astrologer in view Don Miguel and 
Don Pedro when he penned this staoza, so nrach less obscure and oracular than the rest? 

t Hermippua SediviviUf p. 142. 



t 

248^ EXTBAOEDDf AB-Y POPULIK DELUSIONS. 

a very common resource with these fellows to ke^ np their credit* 
He foretold confidently that the prince shoidd die by the hand of his 
own familiar friend, a person of a slender habit of body, a small, face, 
a swarthy complexion, and of most remarkable taciturnity. So it 
afterwards happened, Alexander having been murdered in his chamber 
by his cousin Lorenzo, who corresponded exactly with the above de-. 
scription.* The author of Hermypfns RedivivuSy in relating this story, 
inclines to the belief that the astrologer was guiltless of any participa-s 
tion in the crime, but was employed by some friend of Prince Alex- 
ander to warn him of his danger. 

A much more remarkable story is told of an astrologer who lived 
in Romagna in the fifteenth century, and whose name was Antiochus 
Tibertus.t At that time nearly all the petty sovereigns of Italy re-, 
tained such men in their service ; and Tibertus, having studied the 
mathematics with great success at Paris, and delivered many predic- 
tions, some of which, for guesses, were not deficient in shrewdness, 
was taken into the household of Pandolfo di Malatesta, the sovereign 
of Kimini. His reputation was so great, that his study was conti- 
nually thronged either with visitors who were persons of distinction, 
or with clients who came to him for advice ; and in a short time he 
acquired a considerable fortune. Notwithstanding all these advan- 
tages, he passed his life miserably, and ended it on the scaffold. The 
following fitory afterwards got into circulation, and has been often 
triumphantly cited by succeeding astrologers as an irrefragable proof 
of the truth of their science. It was said that, long before he died, 
he uttered three remarkable prophecies — one relating to himself, an- 
other to his friend, and the third to his patron, Pandolfo di Mala- 
testa. The first delivered was that relating to his friend Guido di 
Bogni, one of the greatest captains of the time. Guido was exceed- 
ingly desirous to know his fortune, and so importuned Tibertus, that 
the latter consulted the stars and the lines on his palm to satisfy him. 
He afterwards told him with a sorrowful face, that, according to all 
the rules of astrology and palmistry, he should be falsely suspected by 
his best friend, and should lose his life in consequence. Guido then 
asked the astrologer if he could foretell his own fate ; upon which 
Tibertus again consulted the stars, and found that it was decreed from 
all eternity that he should end his days on the scaffold. Malatesta, 
when he heard these predictions, so unlikely, to all present appear- 
ance, to prove true, desired his astrologer to predict his fate also, and 
to hide nothing from him, however unfavourable it might be. Tiber- 
tus complied, and told his patron, at that time one of the most flour- 

* Jovii Elog. p. 320, 

t T^es Anecdotes de Florence^ ou THisUnre aeerlte de la Maison di Medicis, p. 318. 

f 



POETUNE-TELUNG. 249 

ishing and powerful princes of Italy, that he should sufiPer great want, 
and die at last like a beggar in the common hospital of Bologna. And 
80 it happened in all three cases. Guido di Bogni was accused by his 
own father-in-law, the Count di Bentivoglio, of a treasonable design 
to deliver up the city of Rimini to the papal forces, and was assassin- 
ated afterwards, by order of the tyrant Malatesta, as he sat at the 
supper-table, to which he had been invited in all apparent friendship. 
The astrologer was at the same time thrown into prison, as being con^ 
cemed in the .treason of his friend. He attempted to escape, and had 
succeeded in letting himself down from his dungeon-window into a 
moat, when he was discovered by the sentinels. This being reported 
to Malatesta, he gave orders for his execution on the following morn- 
ing. 

Malatesta had, at this time, no remembrance of the prophecy ; 
and his own fate gave him no uneasiness ; but events were silently 
working its fulfilment. A conspiracy had been formed, though Gnido 
di Bogni was innocent of it, to deliver up Rimini to the pope ; and all 
the necessary measures having been taken, the city was seized by the 
Count de Yalentinois. In the confusion, Malatesta had barely time 
to escape from his palace in disguise. He was pursued from place to 
place by his enemies, abandoned by all his former friends, and, finally, 
by his own children. He at last fell ill of a languishing disease, at 
Bologna ; and, nobody caring to afford him shelter, he was carried to 
the hospital, where he died. The only thing that detracts from the 
interest of this remarkable story is the fact, that the prophecy was 
made after the event. 

For some weeks before the birth of Louis XIV., an astrologer from 
Grermany, who had been sent for by the Marshal de Bassompierre and 
other noblemen of the court, had taken up his residence in the palace, 
to be ready, at a moment's notice, to draw the horoscope of the future 
sovereign of France. When the queen was taken in labour, he was 
ushered into a contiguous apartment, that he might receive notice of 
the very instant the child was bom. The result of his observations 
were the three words, diu^ durd, fdiciter ; uie&ning, that the new- 
bom prince should live and reign long, with much labour, and with 
great glory. No prediction less favourable could have been expected 
from an astrologer, who had his bread to get, and who was at the 
same time a courtier. A medal was afterwards struck in commemo* 
ration of the event ; upon one side of which was figured the nativity 
of the prince, representing him as driving the chariot of Apollo, with, 
the inscription " Ortus solis Gallici," — the rising of the Gallic sun. 

The best excuse ever made for astrology was that offered by the 
great astronomer, Kepler, himself an unwilltng practiser of the art. 



250 EXTBAOBDINABT FOPTJLAB DELUSIONS. 

He had many applioations from his friends to cast natiTities for them, 
and generally gave a positive refusal to such as he was not afraid of 
offending by his frankness. In other cases he accommodated himself 
to the prevailing delusion. In sending a copy of his I^kemerides to 
Professor Gterlach, he wrote, that the^ were nothing Inet worthUsa con- 
jectures ; but he was obliged to devote himself to them, or he would 
have starved. " Ye overwise philosophers," he exclaimed^ in his 
Tertius Intervemens; "ye censure this daughter of astronomy beyond 
her deserts 1 Krvovr ye riot that %ke mugi »iipport her mother hyi her 
charrm f The scanty reward of an astronomer would not pirovide him^ 
with bread, if men did not entertain hc^es of reading the future ia 
the heavens." 

KscaoMAKGT was, next to astrolo^,. the pretended science ]»ost 
resorted to, by those who wished to pry into the future. The earliest 
instance upon record is that of the witch of Endc»r and the spirit of 
^Samuel. Kearly all the nations of antiquity believed in the possibility 
of summoning departed ghosts to disclose the awful secrets that God 
made clear to the disembodied. Many passages in allusion, to thid 
subject will at once suggest themselves to the classical reader ; but 
this art was never carried on openly in any country. All gpvem- 
ments looked upon it a& a crime of the deepest dye. While astrology 
was encouraged, and its professors courted and rewarded, necroman- 
cers were universally condemned to the stake or the gallows. Rog^ 
Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Arnold of Yilleneuve, and many others, 
were accused by the public opinion of many centuries, of meddling 
in these unhallowed matters. So deep-rooted has always been the 
popular delusion with respect to accusations of this kind, that no 
'Crime was ever disproved with such toil and difGlculty. That it met 
great encouragement, nevertheless, is evident from the vast numbers 
of pretenders to it ; who^ in spite of the danger^ have existed in all 
<ages and countries. 

Geomanot, or the art of foretelling the future by means of lines 
Und circles, and other mathematical figures drawn on the earth, is 
•till extensively practised in Asiatic countries, but is almost unknown 
in Europe.. 

AuGUET, from the fli^t or entrails of birds, so favourite a study 
^unong the Romans,^ is, in like manner, exploded in Europe. Ite 
most assiduous professors, at the present day, are the abominable 
Thugs of India. 

BiviiTAi^ioir, of Which ther^ are many kinds, beasts a mwe en- 



POETUUE-TELLINO. 251 

during reputation. It has held an empire over the minds of men 
from the earliest periods of recorded history, and is, in all probability, 
coeval with time itself. It was practised alike by the Jews, the 
Egyptians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans ; 
is equally known to all modem nations, in every part of the world ; 
and is not unfamiliar to the untutored tribes that roam in the wilds 
of Africa and America. Divination, as practised in civilised Europe 
at the present day, is chiefly from cards, the tea-cup, and the lines on 
the palm of the hand. Gipsies alone make a profession of it ; but 
there are thousands and tens of thousands of humble families in which 
the good-wife, and even the good-man, resort to the grounds at the 
bottom of their tea-cups, to know whether the next harvest will be 
abundant, or their sow bring forth a numerous litter ; and in which 
the young maidens look to the same place to know when they are to 
be married, and whether the man of their choice is to be dark or fair, 
rich or poor, kind or cruel. Divination by cards, so great a favourite 
among the modems, is, of course, a modem science ; as cards do not 
yet boast an antiquity of much more than four hundred years. Divi- 
nation by the palm, so confidently believed in by half the village 
lasses in Europe, is of older date, and seems to have been known to 
the Egyptians in the time of the patriarchs ; as weU as divination by 
the cup, which, as we are informed in Genesis, was practised by Joseph. 
Divination by the rod was also practised by the Egyptians. In com- 
paratively recent times, it was pretended that by this means hidden 
treasures could be discovered. It now appears to be altogether ex- 
ploded in Europe. Onomancy, or the foretelling a man's fate by the 
letters of his name, and the various transpositions of which they are 
capable, is a more modem sort of divination ; but it reckons compara- 
tively few believers. 

The following list of the various species of divination formerly in 
use, is given by Gbule in his Mcigctstromanoery and quoted in Hone's 
Tear-Booh^ p. 1517. 

StereoTTvaTvcy^ or divining by the elements. 

Aeromanc^y or divining by the air. 

Pi/roma7Kn/y by fire. 

JE[t/di*omanct/j by water. 

Oeomanc^y by earth. 

Theomanct/y pretending to divine by the revelation of the Spirit, 
and by the Scriptures, or word of God. 

Demonomancj/j by the aid of devils and evil spirits. 

Idolomanci/, by idols, images, and figures. 

Psychomancy^ by the soul, affections, <»r dispositions of m^i. 



252 BXTBAORDINART POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

ATUhropomanc^y by the entrails of human beings. 

Theriomanci^, by beasts. 

Omithomancy^ by birds. 

IchthyomaTicy^ by fishes. 

Botanornancyy by herbs. 

Lithomancy, by stones. 

Kleromxincy, by lots. 

Chmromancyy by dreams. 

Owymawyy^ by names. 

ArithTMincyy by numbers. 

LogarUhmari/yy^ by logarithms. 

SterTvomancy, by the marks from the breast to the belly. 

OastroTnancy, by the sound of, or marks upon the belly. 

Omphalomancy, by the navel. 

Chiromancy, by the hands. 

Podomancy, by the feet. 

Onchyomancy, by the nails. 

CephaleonomaTicy, by asses' heads. 

Tephrontancy, by ashes. 

Kajmomancy, by smoke. 

Knissomaricy, by the burning of incense. 

Cerornancy, by the melting of wax. 

Lecancymancy, by basins of water. 

KaJtoptromaThcyy by looking-glasses. 

dhartomanGy, by writing in papers, and by Valentines. 

MacharorMmcy, by knives and swords. 

CrystaXUrmjancy, by crystals. 

Dactylomancy, by rings. 

KoahinoTThancy, by sieves. 

AxiTKynuincy, by saws. 

Cfudcorrumcy, by vessels of brass, or other metaL 

Sfpatihrtmncy, by skins, bones, &c. 

Astromancy, by stars. 

Sciomancy, by shadows. 

Astragalomancy, by dice. 

Oinomancy, by the lees of wine. 

Sycomancyy by figs. 

TyromaTvcyy by cheese. 

AlphiioTTUincy, by meal, flour, or bran. 

Krithorrumcy^ by com or grain. 

Alectromancy^ by pocks. 

Oyromancy^ by circles. 

LampadoTnancy^ by candles and lamps. 



FORTUNE-TELLING. 253 

Oneiro-criticism, or the art of interpreting dreams, is a relic of 
the most remote ages, which has subsisted through all the changes 
that moral or physical revolutions have operated in the world. The 
records of five thousand years bear abundant testimony to the univer- 
sal diffusion of the belief, that the skilful could read the future in 
dreams. The rules of the art, if any existed in ancient times, are not 
known; but in our day, one simple rule opens the whole secret. 
Dreams, say all the wiseacres in Christendom, are to be interpreted 
by contraries. Thus, if you dream of filth, you will acquire some- 
thing valuable ; if you dream of the dead, you will hear news of the 
living ; if you dream of gold and silver, you run a risk of being with- 
out either ; and if you dream you have many friends, you will be per- 
secuted by many enemies. The rule, however, does not hold good in 
all cases. It is fortunate to dream of little pigs, but unfortunate to 
dream of big bullocks. If you dream you have lost a tooth, you may 
be sure that you will shortly lose a friend ; and if you dream that 
your house is on fire, you will receive news from a far country. If 
you dream of vermin, it is a sign that there will be sickness in your 
family ; and if you dream of serpents, you will have friends who, in 
the course of time, will prove your bitterest enemies ; but, of all 
dreams, it is most fortunate if you dream that you are wallowing up 
to your neck in mud and mire. Clear water is a sign of grief ; and 
great troubles, distress, and perplexity are predicted, if you dream 
that you stand naked in the public streets, and know not where to 
find a garment to shield you from the gaze of the multitude. 

In many parts of Great Britain, and the continents of Europe and 
America, three are to be found elderly women in the villages and 
country-places whose interpretations of dreams are looked upon with 
as much reverence as if they were oracles. In districts remote from 
towns it is not uncommon to find the members of a family regularly 
every morning narrating their dreams at the breakfast-table, and be- 
coming happy or miserable for the day according to their interpreta- 
tion. There is not a flower that blossoms, or fruit that ripens, that, 
dreamed of, is not ominous of either good or evil to such people. 
Every tree of the field or the forest is endowed with a similar influ- 
ence over the fate of mortals, if seen in the night-visions. To dream 
of the ash, is the sign of a long journey ; and of an oak, prognosti- 
cates long life and prosperity. To dream you stript the bark off any 
tree, is a sign to a maiden of an approaching loss of a character ; to a 
married woman, of a family bereavement 5 and to a man, of an acces- 
sion of fortune. To dream of a leafless tree,^ is a sign of great sorrow ; 
and of a branchless trunk, a sign of despair and suicide. The elder- 



254 2XTBA0BDINAS,T POPULAA DELUSIONS. 

tree is more auspicious to the sleeper ; while the fir-tree, better still, 
betokens all manner of comfort and prosperity. The lime-tree pre- 
dicts a voyage across the ocean; while the yew and the alder are 
ominous of sickness to the young and of death to the 0I4.* Among 
the flowers and fruits charged with messages for the future, the fol- 
lowing is a list of the most important, arranged from approved sources, 
in alphabetical order : 

AsparacfuSy gathered and tied up in bundles, is an omen of tears. 
If you see it growing in your dreams, it is a sign of good for- 
tune. 

Aloes^ without a flower, betokens long life ; in flower, betokens a 
legacy. 

Artichokes, This vegetable is a sign that you will receive, in a short 
time, a favour from the hands of those from whom you would 
least expect it. 

Agrimony. This herb denotes that there will be sickness in your 
house. 

AnemoTve predicts love. 

Auriculas, in beds, denote luck ; in pots, marriage ; while to gather 
them, foretells widowhood. 

Bilberries predict a pleasant excursion. 

Broom-jUmers an increase of family. 

Cauliflowers predict that all your friends will slight you, or that you 
will fall into poverty and find no one to pity you. 

Dock-leaves, a present from the country. 

Daffodils. Any maiden who dreams of dafibdils is warned by her 
good angel to avoid going into a wood with her lover, or into any 
dark or retired place where she might not be able to make peo- 
ple hear her if she cried out. Alas for her if she pay no attention 
to the warning ! 

" Never ckgain shall she put garland on ; 
Instead of it she'll wear sad cypress now. 
And bitter elder broken from the bough." 

* It is quite astonishing to see the great demand there is, both in England and 
France, for dream-books, and other trash of the same kind. Two books in England enjoy 
an extraordinary popularity, and have run through upwards of fifty editions in as many 
years in London alone, besides being reprinted in Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and 
Dublin. One is Mother Bridget's Dream-booh and Oracle of Fate; the other is the Norwood 
Oipay. It is stated, on the authority of one who is curious in these matters, that there 
is a demand for these works, which are sold at sums varying from a penny to sizi>ence, 
•chiefly to servant-girls and imperfectly-educated people, all over the country, of upwards 
of eleven thousand annually ; and that at no period during the last thirty years has the 
average number sold been less than this. The total number during this period wonld 
thus amount to 330,000. 



lOBTXJNE-TELLDfG. 255 

Figsy if green, betoken embarrassment ; if dried, money to the poor, 
and mirth to the rich. 

ffeart's-ease betokens heart's pain. 

JAlies predict joy ; water-ZUieSy danger from the sea. 

Lemons betoken a separation. 

PomegranoUes predict happy wedlock to those who are single, and 
reconciliation to those who are married and have disagreed. 

Quinces prognosticate pleasant company. 

jRoses denote happy love, not unmixed with sorrow from other 
sources. 

Sorrd. To dream of this herb is a sign that you will shortly have 
occasion to exert all your prudence to overcome some great cala- 
mity. 

Sunflowers shew that your pride will be deeply wounded. 

Violets predict evil to the single, and joy to the married. 

Ydiow-flowers of any kind predict jealousy. 

Tew-berries predict loss of character to both sexes. 

It should be observed that the rules for the interpretation of 
dreams are far from being universal. The cheeks of the peasant girl 
of England glow with pleasure in the morning after she has dreamed 
of a rose, while the paysamie of Normandy dreads disappointment and 
vexation for the very same reason. The Switzer who dreams of an 
oak-tree does not share in the Englishman's joy ; for he imagines 
that the vision was a warning to him that, from some trifling cause, 
an overwhelming calamity will burst over him. Thus do the igno- 
rant and the credulous torment themselves ; thus do they spread 
their nets to catch vexation, and pass their lives between hopes which 
are of no value and fears which are a positive evil. 

Omens. Among the other means of self-annoyance upon which 
men have stimibled, in their vain hope of discovering the future, 
signs and omens hold a conspicuous place. There is scarcely an oc- 
currence in nature which, happening at a certain time, is not looked 
upon by some persons as a prognosticator either of good or evil. The 
latter are in the greatest number, so much more ingenious are we in 
tormenting ourselves than in discovering reasons for enjoyment in the 
things that surround us. We go out of our course to make ourselves 
uncomfortable ; the cup of life is not bitter enough to our palate, 
and we distil superfluous poison to put into it, or conjure up hideous 
things to frighten ourselves at, which would never exist if we did 
not make them. " We suffer," says Addison,* " as much from 

• apeeuaor, No. 7, March 8, 1710-11. 



256 EXTRAORDINiLRT POPTJLAB DELUSIONS. 

trifling accidents as from real evils. I have known the diiooting of 
a star spoil a night's rest, and have seen a man in love grow pale and 
lose his appetite upon the plucking of a merrythought. A screech- 
owl at midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of robbers ; 
nay, the voice of a cricket has struck more terror than the roaring 
of a lion. There is nothing so intjonsiderable which may not appear 
dreadful to an imagination that is filled with omens and prognostics, 
A rusty nail or a crooked pin shoot up into prodigies." 

The century and a quarter that has passed away since Addison 
wrote has seen the fall of many errors. Many fallacies and delusib&s 
have been crushed under the foot of Time since then ; but this has 
been left unscathed, to frighten the weak-minded and embitter thor 
existence. A belief in omens is not confined to the humble and un- 
informed. A general who led an army with credit has been known 
to feel alarmed at a winding-sheet in- the candle ;- and learned men, 
who had honourably and fairly earned the highest honours of litera- 
ture, have been seen to gather their little ones around them, and fear 
that one would be snatched away, because, 

'^ When stole upon the time the dead of nighty. 
And heavy sleep had closed up mortal eyes," 

a dog in the street was howling at the moon. Persons who would 
acknowledge freely that the belief in omens was unworthy of a man 
of sense, have yet confessed at the same time that, in spite of their 
reason, they have been unable to conquer their fears of death when 
they heard the harmless insect called the death-watch ticking in the 
wall, or saw an oblong hollow coal fly out of the fire. 

Many other evil omens besides those mentioned above alarm the 
vulgar and the weak. If a sudden shivering comes over such people, 
they believe that, at that instant, an enemy is treading over the spot 
that will one day be their grave. If they meet a sow when they first 
walk abroad in the morning, it is an omen of evil for that day. To 
meet an ass, is in like manner unlucky. It is also very unfortunate 
to walk under a ladder ; to forget to eat goose on the festival of St. 
Michael ; to tread upon a beetle, or to eat the twin nuts that are 
sometimes found in one shell. • Woe, in like manner, is pre^cted 
to that wight who inadvertently upsets the salt ; each grain that is 
overthrown will bring to him a day of sorrow. If thirteen persons 
sit at table, one of them will die within the year ; and all of them 
will be unhappy. Of all evil omens this is the worst. The &cetious 
Br. Kitchener used to observe that there was one case in which he 
believed that it was really unlucky for thirteen persons to sit down 
to dinner, and that was when there was only dinner enough for twelve. 



POETTJKB-TELLTNG, 257 

Unfortunatelj for their peace of mind, the great majority of people do 
not take this wise view of the matter. In almost every country of 
£urope the same superstition prevails, and some carry it so far as to 
look upon the number thirteen as in every way ominous of evil ; and 
if they find thirteen coins in their purse, cast away the odd one like 
a polluted thing. The philosophic Beranger, in his exquisite song. 
Thirteen at Table, has taken a poetical view of this humiliating super-* 
stition, and mingled, as is his wont, a lesson of genuine wisdom in 
his' lay. Being at dinner, he overthrows the salt, and, looking round 
the loom, discovers that he is the thirteenth guest. While he is 
mourning his unhappy fate, and conjuring up visions of disease and 
suffering and the grave, he is suddenly startled by the apparition of 
Death herself, not in the shape of a grim foe, with skeleton-ribs and 
menacing dart, but of an augel of light, who shews the folly of tor- 
menting ourselves with the dread of her approach, when she is the 
friend, rather than the enemy, of man, and frees us from the fetters 
which bind us to the dust. 

If men could bring themselves to look upon death in this manner, 
living well and wisely till her inevitable approach, how vast a store 
of grief and vexation would they spare themselves ! 

Among good omens, one of the most conspicuous is to meet a 
piebald horse. To meet two of these animals is still more fortunate ; 
and if on such an occasion you spit thrice, and form any reasonable 
wish, it will be gratified within three days. It is also a sign of good 
fortune if you inadvertently put on your stocking wrong side out. 
If you wilfully wear your stocking in this fashion, no good will come 
of it. It is very lucky to sneeze twice ; but if you sneeze a third 
time, the omen loses its power, and your good fortune will be nipped 
in the bud. If a strange dog foUow you, and fawn on you, and wish 
to attach itself to you, it is a sign of very great prosperity. Just as 
fortunate is it if a strange male cat comes to your house and manifests 
friendly intentions towards your family. If a she cat, it is an omen, 
on the contrary, of very great misfortune. If a swarm of bees alight 
in your garden, some very high honour and great joys await you. 

Besides these glimpses of the future, you may know something of 
your fate by a diligent attention to every itching that you may feel 
in your body. Thus, if the eye or the nose itches, it is a sign you 
will be shortly vexed ; if the foot itches, you will tread upon strange 
ground ; and if the elbow itches, you will change your bedfellow. 
Itching of the right hand prognosticates that you will soon have a 
sum of money ; and, of the left, that you will be called upon to dis^ 
burse it. 

These are but a few of the omens which are generally credited in 

17 



258 EXTBAOEDINABT POPULAB, DELUSIONS. 

modem Europe. A complete list of them would fatigue from its 
length, and sicken from its absurdity. It would be still more unpro- 
fi table to attempt to specify the various delusions of the same kind 
which are believed among oriental nations. Every reader will remember 
the comprehensive formula of cursing preserved in Tristram Shxindtf — 
curse a man after any fashion you remember or can invent, you will 
be sure to find it there. The oriental creed of omens is not less com- 
prehensive. Every movement of the body, every emotion of th« 
mind, is at certain times an omen. Every form and object in nature, 
even the shape of the clouds and the changes of the weather ; every 
colour, every sound, whether of men or animals, or birds or insects, 
or inanimate things, is an omen. Nothing is too trifling or inconsi- 
derable to inspire a hope which is not worth cherishing, or a fear 
which is sufficient to embitter existence. 

From the belief in omens springs the superstition that has, from 
very early ages, set apart certain days, as more favourable than others, 
for prying into the secrets of futurity. The following, copied ver- 
batim from the popular Dream and Omen Book of Mother Bridget, 
will shew the belief of the people of England at the present day* 
Those who are curious as to the ancient history of these observances, 
will find abundant aliment in the Every-day Book, 

" The 1st of January, — If a young maiden drink, on going to bed, 
a pint of cold spring water, in which is beat up an amulet, composed 
of the yolk of a pullet's egg, the legs of a spider, and the skin of an 
eel pounded, her future destiny will be revealed to her in a dream. 
This charm fails of its effect if tried any other day of the year. 

" Valentin>e Bay. — Let a single woman go out of her own door very 
early in the morning, and if the first person she meets be a woman, 
she will not be married that year ; if she meet a man she will be 
married within three months. 

" Lady Bay, — The following charm may be tried this day with 
certain success : String thirty-one nuts on a string, composed of red 
worsted mixed with blue silk, and tie it round your neck on going to 
bed, repeating these lines : 

" Oh, I wish ! oh, I wish to see 
Who my tnie love is to be ! 

Shortly after midnight, you will see your lover in a dream, and be 
informed at the same time of all the principal events of your fu- 
ture life. 

" St. Swithin's Eve. — Select three things you most wish to know ; 
write them down with a new pen and red ink on a sheet of fine wove 



POETUNB-TELLING. 259 

paper, from which you must previously cut off all the comers and 
bum them. Fold the paper into a true lover's knot, and wrap round 
it three hairs from your head. Place the paper under your pillow for 
three successive nights, and your curiosity to know the future will 
be satisfied. 

" St. Mark^s Eve. — Repair to the nearest churchyard as the clock 
strikes twelve, and take from a grave on the south side of the church 
three tufts of grass (the longer and ranker the better), and on going 
to bed place them under your pillow, repeating earnestly three seve- 
ral times, 

' The Eve of St, Mark by prediction is blest, 
Set therefore my hopes and my fears all to rest : 
Let me know my fate, whether weal or woe ; 
Whether my rank's to be high or low ; 
Whether to live single, or be a bride. 
And the destiny my star doth provide.' 

Should you have no dream that night, you will be single and mise- 
rable all your life. If you dream of thunder and lightning, your life 
will be one of great difficulty and sorrow. 

** Candlemas Eve. — On this night (which is the purification of the 
Virgin Mary), let three, five, seven, or nine young maidens assemble 
together in a square chamber. Hang in each corner a bundle of sweet 
herbs, mixed with rue and rosemary. Then mix a cake of flour, olive - 
oil, and white sugar; every maiden having an equal share in the 
making and the expense of it. Afterwards it must be cut into equal 
pieces, each one marking the piece as she cuts it with the initials of 
her name. It is then to be baked one hour before the fire, not a word 
being spoken the whole time, and the maidens sitting with their arms 
and knees across. Each piece of cake is then to be wrapped up in a 
sheet of paper, on which each maiden shall write the love part of 
Solomon's Songs. If she put this under her pillow she will dream 
true. She will see her future husband and every one of her children, 
and will know besides whether her family will be poor or prosperous, 
a comfort to her or the contrary. 

" Midrnm/nur. — ^Take three roses, smoke them with sulphur, and 
exactly at three in the day bury one of the roses under a yew-tree ; 
the second in a newly-made grave, and put the third under your pil- 
low for three nights, and at the end of that period bum it in a fire of 
charcoal. Your dreams during that time will be prophetic of your 
future destiny, and, what is still more curious and valuable, says 
Mother Bridget, the man whom you are to wed will enjoy no peace 
till he comes and visits you. Besides this, you will perpetually 
haunt his dreams. 



260 



EXTBAOBDINASY FOPULAB DELUSIONS. 



^' St, John's Eve. --Make a new pincushion of the very best black 
velvet (no inferior quality will answer the purpose), and on one side 
stick your name at full length with the very smallest pins that can be 
bought (none other will do). On the other side make a cross with 
some very large pins, and surround it with a circle. Put this into 
your stocking when you take it off at night, and hang it up at the 
foot ^f the bed. All your future life will pass before you in a 
dream. 

" First New Moon of the year, — On the first new moon in the 
year take a pint of clear spring water, and infuse into it the white of 
an egg laid by a white hen, a glass of white wine, three almonds 
peeled white, and a tablespoonful of white rose-water. Drink this on 
going to bed, not making more nor less than three draughts of it ; 
repeating the following verses three several times in a clear distinct 
voice, but not so loud as to be overheard by any body : 

' If I dream of water pure 

Before the coming mom^ 
'Tis a sign I shall be poor. 

And mito wealth not bom. 
If I dream of tasting beer, 4 

Middling then will be my cheer — 
Chequer'd with the good and bad. 
Sometimes joyfiil, sometimes sad ; 
But should I dream of drinking wine. 
Wealth and pleasure will be mine. 
The stronger the drink, the better the cheer — 
Dreams of my destiny, appear, appear !* 

** Ttoenty^yah of February, — ^This day, as it only occurs once in 
four years, is peculiarly auspicious to those who desire to have a glance 
at futurity, especially to young maidens burning with anxiety to know 
the appearance and complexion of their future lords. The charm to 
be adopted is the following : Stick twenty-seven of the smallest pins 
that are made, three by three, into a tallow candle. Light it up at 
the wrong end, and then place it in a candlestick made out of clay, 
which must be drawn from a virgin's grave. Place this on the chim- 
ney-place, in the left-hand comer, exactly as the clock strikes twelve, 
and go to bed immediately. When the candle is burnt out, take the 
pins and put them into your left shoe ; and before nine nights have 
elapsed your fate wiU be revealed to you." 

We have now taken a hasty review of the various modes of seek- 
ing to discover the future, especially as practised in modem times. 
The main features of the folly appear essentially the same in all 
coimtries. National character and peculiarities operate some differ* 



FoaTume-TELLiyG. 261 

ence of interpretation. The mountaineer makes the natural pheno- 
mena which he most frequently witnesses prognosticative of the future. 
The dweller in the plaijis, in a similar manner, seeks to know his fate 
among the signs of the things that surround him, and tints his super- 
stition with the hues of his own clime. The same spirit animates 
them all — the same desire to know that which Infinite Mercy has 
concealed. There is but little probability that the curiosity of man- 
kind in this respect will ever be wholly eradicated. Death and ill 
fortune are continual bugbears to the weak-minded, the irreligious, 
and the ignorant ; and while such exist in the world, divines will 
preach upon its impiety and philosophers discourse upon its absurdity 
in vain. Still it is evident that these follies have greatly diminished. 
Soothsayers and prophets have lost the credit they formerly enjoyed, 
and skulk in secret now where they once shewed their faces in the 
blaze of day. So far there is manifest improvement. 



-'c4jj^:^^5r**^tfl8ii,dCi>o— 



THE MAGNETISEKS. 



wonderful influence of imagination in 
he cure of diBeasea is well known. A 
aotion of the hand, or a glance of the 
fe, will throw a weak and credulous pa- 
ient into a fit ; and a pill made of breftd, 
ken with sufficient faith, will operate a 
better than all the drugs in the pharma- 
w. The Prince of Orange, at the riege 
fida, in 1G25, cured all hie eoldiers, who 
dying of the Bcurry, by a philanthropic 
of quacketj, which he played upon them 
the knowledge of the physicians, when 
:her meanH had failed.* Many hundreds 
stances, of a mmilar kind, night be re- 
ecially from the history of witchcn^t. 
aeries, strange gesticulations, and barbar- 
of witches and sorcerers, which frightened 
and nervous women, brought on till those 
of hysteria and other similar diseases, so 
stood now, but which were then supposed 
rork of the Deril, not only by theviotjine 
ublic in general, but by the operators 

age when alchymy began to &11 into some 
., and learning to lift up its voice against 



• See Tin ier Mye-s HMOiint of the rtese 


ofBrad*. ThegnrrlKpn.beinitslBlctedwith 


irwTf, Uw Prince of On.iige wnt Uio phyei 


cUns iwo or three-smiU phlila, contilnlng . 




nphor, lellini; them to pretend thsl ifua 


medEcliH of the ereitest ybIud and eittenic 


Ht rsrltT, which hsd bcsD procund vlth very 


much dinger snd difficulty from ttiR Eaal; 




Lmpart * healing Tirtao to i gallon of » 


aler. The Midlers h«d faith in their com- 


nuiniler; they look the meilldne with eh 


ecrfBl f«CB, and grew well rapidly. They 




!upH of twenty >nd thirty It m time, prslBing 




sofgraUtude. 



THE MAGN£TI8£BS. 263 

it, a new delusion, based upon this power of imagination, suddenly 
arose, and found apostles among all the alchymists. Numbers of 
them, forsaking their old pursuits, made themselves magnetisers. It 
appeared first in the shape of mineral, and afterwards of animal, mag- 
netism, under which latter name it surviyes to this day, and numbers 
its dupes by thousands. 

The mineral magnetisers claim the first notice, as the worthy pre- 
decessors bf the quacks of the present day. The honour claimed for 
Paracelsus, of being the first of the Rosicrucians, has been disputed ; 
but his claim to be considered the first of the magnetisers can scarcely 
be challenged. It has been already mentioned of him, in the part of 
this work which treats of alchymy, that, like nearly all the dis- 
tinguished adepts, he was a physician ; and pretended, not only to 
make gold and confer immortality, but to cure all diseases. He was 
the first who, with the latter yiew, attributed occult and miraculous 
powers to the magnet. Animated apparently by a sincere conviction 
that the magnet was the philosopher's stone, which, if it could not 
transmute metals, could soothe all human suffering and arrest the 
progress of decay, he travelled for many years in Persia and Arabia, 
in search of the mountain of adamant, so famed in oriental fables. 
When he practised as a physician at Basle, he called one of his nos- 
trums by the name of azoth— a stone or crystal, which, he said, con- 
tained magnetic properties, and cured epilepsy, hysteria, and spas- 
modic affections. He soon found imitators. His fame spread far and 
near ; and thus were sown the first seeds of that error which has since 
taken root and flourished so widely. In spite of the denial of modem 
practitioners, this must be considered the origin of magnetism ; for 
we find that, beginning with Paracelsus, there was a regular succession 
of mineral magnetisers until Mesmer appeared, and gave a new feature 
to the delusion. 

Paracelsus boasted of being able to transplant diseases from the 
human frame into the earth, by means of the magnet. He said there 
were six ways by which this might be effected. One of them will be 
quite sufiScient as a specimen. '* If a person suffer from disease, 
either local or general, let the following remedy be tried. Take a 
magnet, impregnated with mummy,^ and mixed with rich earth. In 

* Mummies were of several kinds, and were all of great nse in magnetic medicines. 
Paracelsus enumerates six kinds of mummies ; the first four only difi«ring in the compo- 
sition used by different people for preserving their dead, are the Egyptian, Arabian, 
Pisasphaltos, and Libyan. The fifth mummy of peculiar power was made from criminals 
that had been hanged ; " for from such there is a gentle siccation, that ezpungeth the 
watery humour, without destroying the oil and spiritnall, which is cherished by the 
heavenly luminaries, and strengthened continually by the aflSuence and impulses of the 
celestial spirits ; whence it may be properly called by the name of constellated or celeft- 



264 XXTBAOBDINABY FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

this earth sow some seeds that have a congruity or homogeneity with 
the disease ; then let this earth, well sifted and mixed with mummy, 
be laid in an earthen vessel ; and let the seeds committed to it be 
watered daily with a lotion in which the diseased limb or body has 
been washed. Thus will the disease be transplanted from the human 
body to the seeds which are in the earth. Having done this, trans* 
plant the seeds from the earthen vessel to the ground, and wait till 
they begin to sprout into herbs ; as they increase, the disease will 
diminish ; and when they have arrived at their full growth, it will 
disappear altogether." 

Kircher the Jesuit, whose quarrel with the alchymists was the 
means of exposing many of their impostures, was a firm believer iu 
the efficacy of the magnet. Having been applied to by a patient 
afflicted with hernia, he directed the man to swallow a small magnet 
reduced to powder, while he applied at the same time to the external 
swelling, a poultice made of filings of iron. He expected that by this 
means the magnet, when it got to the corresponding place inade^ 
would draw in the iron, and with it the tumour ; whidi would thus» 
he said, be safely and expeditiously reduced. 

As this new doctrine of magnetism spread, it was found that 
wounds inflicted with any metallic substance could be cured by the 
magnet. In p; ooess of time, the delusion so increased, that it waD 
deemed sufficient to magnetise a swprd, to cure any hurt which that 
sword might have inflicted I This was the origin of the celebrated 
*' weapon-salve," which excited so much attention about the middle 
of the seventeenth century. The following was the recipe given by 
Paracelsus for the cure of any wounds inflicted by a sharp weapon, 
except such as had penetrated the heart, the brain, or the arteries.. 
^* Take of moss growing on the head of a thief who has been hanged 
and left in the air ; of real mummy ; of human blood, still warm — of 
each, one ounce ; of human suet, two ounces ; of linseed oil, turpen- 
tine, and Armenian bole — of each, two drachms. Mix all well in a 
mortar, and keep the salve in an oblong, narrow urn." With this 
salve the weapon, after being dipped in the blood from the wound, 
was to be carefully anointed, and then laid by in a cool place. In the 
mean time, the wound was to be duly washed with fair clean water, 
covered with a clean, soft, linen rag, and opened once a day to cleanse 
off purulent or other matter. Of the success of this treatment, says 

tial mmnmie.'* The sixth kind of mnminy was made of corpuscles, or spiritual effluences, 
radiated from the liying body ; though we cannot get very clear ideas on this head, or 
respecting the manner in which they were caught. — Medicina Diataatica; or, 8ympa>- 
iheticfd Mummie, abstracted from tTie Works of Faracilsus, and translated out of the Latin, by 
Fernando Parkhnrst, Gent. London, 1663, pp. 2, 7. Quoted by the Foreign Quarterlg 
BevietD, vol. zii. p. 416. 



THE MAGNETISEBS. 265 

the writer of the able article on Animal Magnetism, in the twelfth 
volume of the Foreign Quarterly Review^ there cannot be the least 
doubt \ ^' for surgeons at this moment follow exactly the same method, 
excq>t anointing the weapon I" 

The weapon-salve continued to be much spoken of on the Continent, 
and many eager claimants appeared for the honour of the invention. 
Dr, Fludd, or A Fluctibus, the Rosicrucian, who has been already 
mentioned in a previous part of this volume, was very zealous in in- 
troducing it into England. He tried it with great success in several 
cases, and no wonder, for while he kept up the spirits of his patients 
by boasting of the great efficacy of the salve, he never neglected those 
common, but much more important remedies, of washing, bandaging, 
4kG« which the experience of all ages had declared sufficient for the 
purpose. Fludd moreover declared, that the magnet was a remedy 
for all diseases, if properly applied ; but that man having, like the 
earth, a north and a south pole, magnetism could only take place 
when his body was in a boreal position I In the midst of his popu- 
larity, an attack was made upon him and his favourite remedy, the 
salve ; which, however, did little or nothing to diminish the belief in 
its efficacy. One " Parson Foster" wrote a pamphlet, entitled Hyplo- 
crisma Spongvs ; or, a Bpnnge to wipe away the Weapon-Salve; in 
which he declared, that it was as bad as witchcraft to use or recom- 
mend such an unguent ; that it was invented by the Devil, who, at 
the last day, would seize upon every person who had given it the 
slightest encouragement. " In fact," said Parson Foster, " the Devil 
himself gave it to Paracelsus; Paracelsus to the emperor; the 
emperor to the courtier ; the courtier to Baptista Porta ; and Bap- 
tista Porta to Dr. Fludd, a doctor of physic, yet living and practising 
in the famous city of London, who now stands tooth and nail for it." 
Dr. Fludd, thus assailed, took up the pen in defence of his unguent, 
in a reply called The Squeezing of Parson Foster* s Sjy&nge ; wherein 
the Spunge-hearer's immodest carriage and behaviour towards his bre- 
thren is detected; the bitter Jlam£s of his slanderous reports are ^ by the 
sharp vinegar of truths corrected and quite extinguished ; and lastly ^ 
the virtuxms validity of his spimge in wiping away the weapon-salve^ is 
crushed out and dean abolished. 

Shortly after this dispute a more distinguished believer in the 
weapon-salve made his appearance in the person of Sir Eenelm Digby, 
the son of Sir Everard Digby, who was executed for his participation 
in the Gunpowder Plot. This gentleman, who, in other respects, 
was an accomplished scholar and an able man, was imbued with all 
the extravagant notions of the alchymists. He believed in the philo- 
sopher's stone, and wished to engage Descartes to devote his enei^es 



266 EXTBAOBJ)INABT POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

to the discovery of the elixir of life, or some other means by which 
the existence of man might be prolonged to an indefinite period. He 
gave his wife, the beautiful Yenetia Anastasia Stanley, a dish of 
capons fed upon vipers, according to the plan supposed to have been 
laid down by Arnold of Villeneuve, in the hope that she might there- 
by preserve her loveliness for a century. If such a man once took up 
the idea of the weapon-salve, it was to be expected that he would 
make the most of it. In his hands, however, it was changed from 
an unguent into a powder, and was called the powder of sympathy. 
He pretended that he had acquired the knowledge of it from a Car- 
melite friar, who had learned it in Persia or Armenia, from an oriental 
philosopher of great renown. King James, the Prince of Wales, the 
Duke of Buchingham, and many other noble personages, believed in 
its efficacy. The following remarkable instance of his mode of cure 
was read by Sir Kenelm to a society of learned men at Montpellier. 
Mr. James Howell, the well-known author of the Dendrologia^ and 
of various letters, coming by chance as two of his best friends were 
fighting a duel, rushed between them and endeavoured to part them. 
He seized the sword of one of the combatants by the hilt, while, at 
the same time, he grasped the other by the blade. Being transported 
with fury one against the other, they struggled to rid themselves of 
the hindrance caused by their friend ; and in so doing, the one whose 
sword was held by the blade by Mr. Howell, drew it away roughly, 
and nearly cut his hand off, severing the nerves and muscles, and 
penetrating to the bone. The other, almost at the same instant, 
disengaged his sword, and aimed a blow at the head of his antagonist, 
which Mr. Howell observing, raised his wounded hand with the 
rapidity of thought to prevent the blow. The sword fell on the back 
of his already wounded hand, and cut it severely. " It seemed," 
said Sir Kenelm Digby, " as if some unlucky star raged over them, 
that they should have both shed' the blood of that dear friend for 
whose life they would have given their own, if they had been in their 
proper mind at the time." Seeing Mr. Howell's face all besmeared 
with blood from his wounded hand, they both threw down their 
swords and embraced him, and bound up his hand with a garter, to 
close the veins which were cut and bled profusely. They then con- 
veyed him home, and sent for a surgeon. King James, who was 
much attached to Mr. Howell, afterwards sent his own surgeon to 
attend him. We must continue the narrative in the words of Sir 
Kenelm Bigby : " It was my chance," says he, " to be lodged hard 
by him ; and four or five days after, as I was making myself ready, 
he came to my house, and prayed me to view his wounds. ' For I 
understand,' said he, ' that you have extraordinary remedies on such 



THE HAGNETISEKS. 267 

oecasions ; and my surgeons apprehend some fear that it may grow 
to a gangrene, and so the hand must be cut off.' In effect, his coun- 
tenance discovered that he was in much pain, which, he said, was 
insupportable in regard of the extreme inflammation. I told him I 
would willingly serve him ; but if, haply, he knew the manner how I 
oould cure him, without touching or seeing him, it might be that he 
would not expose himself to my manner of curing ; because he would 
ihJJik it, peradvent\u*e, either ineffectual or superstitious. He re- 
plied, * The many wonderful things which people have related unto 
me of your way of medicinement makes me nothing doubt at all of 
its efficacy ; and all that I have to say unto you is comprehended in 
the Spanish proverb, Hagase d milagro y hagalo Mahoma — Let the 
miracle be done, though Mahomet do it.' 

" I asked him then for any thing that had the blood upon it : so 
he presently sent for his garter, wherewith his hand was first bound ; 
and as I called for a basin of water, as if I would wash my hands, I 
took a handful of powder of vitriol, which I had in my study, and 
presently dissolved it. As soon as the bloody garter was brought me, 
I put it in the basin, observing, in the interim, what Mr. Howell 
did, who stood talking with a gentleman in a comer of my chamber, 
not regarding at all what I was doing. He started suddenly, as if he 
had found some strange alteration in himself. I asked him what he 
ailed ? ' I know not what ails me, but I find that I feel no more 
pain. Methinks that a pleasing kind of freshness, as it were a wet 
cold napkin, did spread over my hand, which hath taken away the 
inflammation that tormented me before.' I replied, * Since, then, 
you feel already so much good of my medicament, I advise you to 
cast away all your plasters; only keep the wound clean, and in a 
moderate temper betwixt heat and cold.' This was presently reported 
to the Duke of Buckingham, and, a little after, to the king, who 
were both very curious to know the circumstances of the business ; 
which was, that after dinner I took the garter out of the water, and 
put it to dry before a great fire. It was scarce dry before Mr. 
Howell's servant came running, and saying that his master felt as 
much burning as ever he had done, if not more ; for the heat was 
such as if his hand were betwixt coals of fire. I answered that, 
although that had happened at present, yet he should find ease in a 
short time ; for I knew the reason of this new accident, and would 
provide accordingly ; for his master should be free from that inflam- 
mation, it might be before he could possibly return to him. But, in 
case he found no ease, I wished him to come presently back again ; 
if not, he might forbear coming. Thereupon he went, and, at the 



268 EXTBAOBJDINABT FOFULAA DELUSIONS. 

instant I did put the garter again into the water; thereupon he 
found his master without any pain at all. To be brief, there was no 
cense of pain afterwards ; but within five or six days the wounds were 
sicatrised and entirely healed." 

Such is the maryellous story of Sir Kenebn Digby. Other prac- 
titioners of that age were not behind him in their pretensions. It 
was not always thought necessary to use either the powder of sym- 
pathy, or the weapon-salve, to effect a cure. It was sufficient to 
magnetise the sword with the hand (the first faint dawn of the ani- 
mal theory), to relieve any pain the same weapon had caused. They 
asserted, that if they stroked the sword upwards with their fingers, the 
wounded person would feel immediate relief ; but if they stroked it 
downvHJtrday he would feel intolerable pain.* 

Another very singular notion of the power and capabilities of mag- 
netism was entertained at the same time. It was believed that a 
sympathetic alphabet could be made on the flesh, by means of which 
persons could correspond with each other, and communicate all their 
ideas with the rapidity of volition, although thousands of miles apart. 
From the arms of two persons a piece of flesh was cut, and mutually 
transplanted, while still warm and bleeding. The piece so sev^i^ 
grew to the new arm on which it was placed ; but still retained so 
close a sympathy with its native limb, that its old possessor was al- 
ways sensible of any injury done to it. Upon these transplanted 
pieces were tatooed the letters of the alphabet ; so that, when a com- 
munication was to be made, either of the persons, though the wide 
Atlantic rolled between them, had only to prick his arm with a mag- 
netic needle, and straightway his friend received intimation that the 
telegraph was at work« Whatever letter he pricked on his own arm 
pained the same letter on the arm of his correspondent* 

Contemporary with Sir Kenelm Digby was the no less famous 
Mr. Valentine Greatraks, who, without mentioning magnetism, or 
laying claim to any theory, practised upon himself and others a de- 
ception much more akin to the animal magnetism of the present da^y 
than the mineral magnetism it was then so much the fashion to study. 
He was the son of an Irish gentleman, of good education and pro- 
perty, in the county of Cork. He fell, at an early age, into a sort of 
melancholy derangement. After some time he had an impulse, or 
strange persuasion in his mind, which continued to present itself, 
whether he were sleeping or waking, that Gk)d had given him the 
power of curing the king's evil. He mentioned this persuasion to his 

* Reginald Scott, quoted by Sir Walter Scott, in the notes to the Lay of the last Mm- 
gtrel, c. iii. v. zziii. 



THIS ICAGITBTISEBS. 269 

wife^ who very candidly told him that he was a fool. He was not 
qnite sure of this, notwithstanding^ the high authority from which it 
came, and determined to make trial of the power that was in him. 
A few days afterwards, he went to one William Maher, of Salters- 
bridge, in the parish of Lismore, who was grievously afflicted with 
the king's evil in his eyes, cheek, and throat. Upon this man, who 
was of abundant faith, he laid his hands, stroked him, and prayed 
fervently. He had the satisfaction to see him heal considerably in 
the course of a few days ; and finally, with the aid of other remedies, 
to be quite cured. This success encouraged him in the belief that he 
had a divine mission. Day after day he had further impulses from 
on high that he was called upon to cure the ague also. In the course 
of time he extended his powers to the curing of epilepsy, ulcers, aches, 
and lameness. All the county of Cork was in a commotion to see 
this extraordinary physician, who certainly operated some very great 
benefit in cases where the disease was heightened by hypochondria and 
depression of spirits. According to his own account,* such great 
multitudes resorted to him from divers places, that he had no time 
to follow his own business, or enjoy the company of his family and 
friends. He was obliged to set aside three days in the week, from 
six in the morning till six at night, during which time only he laid 
hands upon all that came. Still the crowds which thronged around 
him were so great, that the neighbouring towns were not able to ac- 
commodate them. He thereupon left his house in the country, and 
went to Youghal, where the resort of sick people, not only from all 
parts of Ireland, but from England, continued so great, that the 
magistrates were afraid they would infect the place by their diseases* 
Several of these poor credulous people no sooner saw him than they 
fell into fits, and he restored them by waving his hand in their faces, 
and praying over them. Kay, he affirmed that the touch of his glove 
had driven pains away, and, on one occasion, cast out from a woman 
several de^dls, or evil spirits, who tormented her day and night, 
" Every one of these devils," says Qreatraks, " was like to choke her 
when it came up into her throat.*' It is evident from this that the 
woman's complaint was nothing but hysteria. 

The clergy of the diocese of Lismore, who seem to have had much 
clearer notions of Greatraks' pretensions than their "parishioners, set 
their faces against the new prophet and worker of miracles. He was 
cited to appear in the Dean's Court, and prohibited from laying on 
his hands for the future : but he cared nothing for the Church, He 
imagined that he derived his powers direct from heaven, and con- 

* Greatraks' Aoconnt of himself in a letter to the Honourable Robert Boyle. 



270 EXTKAOKDINABT POPUIAK DELUSIONS. 

tinued to throw people into fits, and bring them to their senses again, 
as usual, almost exactly after the fashion of modem magnetisers. His 
reputation became, at last, so great, that Lord Conway sent to him 
from London, begging that he would come over immediately to cure 
a grievous headache which his lady had suffered for several years, 
and which the principal physicians of England had been unable to 
relieve. 

Greatraks accepted the invitation, and tried his manipulations and 
prayers upon Lady Conway. He failed, however, in affording any 
relief. The poor lady's headache was excited by causes too serious 
to allow her any help, even from faith and a lively imagination. He 
lived for some months in Lord Conway's house, at Ragley, in War- 
wickshire, operating cures similar to those he had performed in Ire- 
land. He afterwards removed to London, and took a house in 
Lincoln's-Inn Fields, which soon became the daily resort of all the 
nervous and credulous women of the metropolis. A very amusing 
account of Greatraks at this time (1665) is given in the second volume 
of the Miscellanies of St, Evremond, under the title of the Irish pro- 
phet. It is the most graphic sketch ever made of this early magne- 
tiser. Whether his pretensions were more or less absurd than those 
of some of his successors, who have lately made their appearance 
among us, would be hard to say. 

" When M. de Comminges," says St. Evremond, "was ambassa- 
dor from his most Christian majesty to the king of Great Britain, 
there came to London an Irish prophet, who passed himself off as a 
great worker of miracles. Some persons of quality having begged 
M. de Comminges to invite him to his house, that they might be 
witnesses of some of his miracles, the ambassador promised to satisfy 
them, as much to gratify his own curiosity as from courtesy to his 
friends ; and gave notice to Greatraks that he would be glad to see 
him. 

" A rumour of the prophet's coming soon spread all over the town, 
and the hotel of M. de Comminges was crowded by sick persons, who 
came full of confidence in their speedy cure. The Irishman made 
them wait a considerable time for him, but came at last, in the midst 
of their impatience, with a grave and simple countenance, that shewed 
no signs of his being a cheat. Monsieur de Comminges prepared to 
question him strictly, hoping to discourse with him on the matters 
that he had read of in Van Helmont and Bodinus ; but he was not 
able to do so, much to his regret, for the crowd became so great, and 
cripples and others pressed around so impatiently to be the first cured, 
that the servants were obliged to mse threats, and even force, befor 



THE HAGNETISEBS. 271 

they could establish order among them, or place them in proper 
ranks. 

<< The prophet affirmed that all diseases were caused by evil spirits. 
Every infirmity was with him a case of diabolical possession. The 
fii^t that was presented to him was a man suffering from gout and 
rheumatism, and so severely that the physicians had been imable to 
cure him. ' Ah,^ said the miracle-worker, ^ I have seen a good deal 
of this sort of spirits when I was in Ireland. They are watery spirits, 
who bring on cold shivering, and excite an overflow of aqueous hu- 
BCKyQrB in our poor bodies.' Then addressing the man, he said, ' Evil 
spirit, who hast quitted thy. dwelling in the waters to come and afflict 
thift miserable body, I command thee to quit thy new abode, and to 
return to thine ancient habitation ! ' This said, the sick man was 
ordered to withdraw, and another was brought forward in his place. 
This new comer said he was tormented by the melancholy vapours. 
In fact, he looked like a hypochondriac ; one of those persons, dis- 
eased in imagination, and who but too often become so in reality. 
' Aerial spirit,' said the Irishman, ^ return, I command thee, into the 
air ; — exercise thy natural vocation of raising tempests, and do not 
excite any more wind in this sad unlucky body V This man was im- 
mediately turned away to make room for a third patient, who, in the 
Irishman's opinion, was only tormented by a little bit of a sprite, 
who could not withstand his command for an instant. He pretended 
that he recognised this sprite by some marks which were invisible to 
the company, to whom he turned with a smile, and said, * This sort 
of spirit does not often do much harm, and is always very diverting.* 
To hear him talk, one would have imagined that he knew all about spi- 
rits, — their names, their rank, their numbers, their employment, and 
aU the functions they were destined to ; and he boasted of being 
much better acquainted with the intrigues of demons than he was 
with the affairs of men. You can hardly imagine what a reputation 
he gained in a short time. Catholics and Protestants visited him 
from every part, all believing that power from heaven was in his 
hands." 

After relating a rather equivocal adventure of a husband and wife, 
who implored Grcatraks to cast out the devil of dissension which had 
crept in between them, St. Evremond thus sums up the effect he pro- 
duced on the popular mind : "So great was the confidence in him, 
that the blind fancied they saw the light which they did not see 
— the deaf imagined that they heard — the lame that they walked 
straight, and the paralytic that they had recovered the use of their 
limbs. An idea of health made the sick forget for a while their ma- 



272 EXTAAOBDINAAY f OFUL^B DELUSIONS. 

ladies ; and ima^iiuition, which was not less active in those merely 
drawn by curiosity than in the sick, gave a false view to the one 
class, from the desire of seeing, as it operated a false cure on the 
other from the strong desire of being healed. Such was the power <^ 
the Irishman over the mind, and such was the influence of the mind 
upon the body. Nothing was spoken of in London but his prodigies; 
and these prodigies were supported by such great authorities, tha4 
the bewildered multitude believed them almost without examination^ 
while more enlightened people did not dare to reject them from their 
own knowledge. The public opinion, timid and enslaved, respected 
this imperious and, apparently, well-authenticated error. Thoee wkiiX' 
saw through the delusion kept their opinion to themselves, knonnsg^ 
how useless it was to declare their disbelief to a people fiUed mtth.' 
prejudice and admiration." 

About the same time that Valentine Greatraks was thus maff>u6r> . 
ising the people of London, an Italian enthusiast, named Francisob 
Bagnone, was performing the same tricks in Italy, and with as great 
success. He had only to touch weak women with his hands, or soeie- 
times (for the sake of working more effectively upon their fanatimsitt) 
with a relic, to make them fall into fits, and manifest all the symp^ 
toms of magnetism. 

Besides these, several learned men, in different parts of Europe, 
directed their attention to the study of the magnet, believing that it 
miifht be rendered efficacious in many diseases. Van Helmont* in 
Acular, published a work on the effects of magnetism on the hu. 
man frame; and Balthazar Gradan, a Spaniard, rendered himself famous 
for the boldness of his views on the subject. '* The magnet," said 
the latter, " attracts iron ; iron is found everywhere ; eveiy thing, 
therefore, is under the influence of magnetism. It is only a modifi<* 
cation of the general principle, which establishes harmony or foments 
divisions among men. It is the same agent that gives rise to sympa* 
thy, antipathy, and the passions."* 

Baptista Porta, who, in the whimsical genealogy of the weapon* 
salve, given by Parson Foster, in his attack upon Dr. k Fluctibus, is 
mentioned as one of its fathers, had also great fieiith in the efficacy 
of the magnet, and operated upon the imagination of his patients in 
a manner which was then considered so extraordinary that he was 
accused of being a magician, and prohibited from practising by the 
court of Eome. Among others who distinguished themselves by their 
fiEuth in magnetism, Sebastian Wirdig and William Maxwell claim 
especial notice. Wirdig was professor of medicine at the university 

* Introduction to the Study 0/ Animal JHfoffhetism, by Baron Dupotet de SenneToy, p. 815. 



THE MA617ETISEBS* 273 

« 

q{ Rostock in Mecklenburg, and wrote a treatise called The New 
Medici'M of the SpiritSy which he presented to the Royal Society of 
London. An edition of this work was printed in 1673, in which the 
author maintained that a magnetic influence took place, not only 
between the celestial and terrestrial bodies, but between all living 
l^nngs. The whole world, he said, was under the influence of mag- 
netism-: life was preserved by magnetism ; death was the consequence 
of magnetism ! 

Maxwell, the other enthusiast, was an admiring disciple of Para- 
oelsiis, and boasted that he had irradiated the obscurity in which too 
KUOiy of the wonder-working recipes of that great philosopher were 
eSiti^ped. His works were printed at Frankfort in 1679. It would 
aeexft, from the following passage, that he was aware of the great in- 
fluence of imagination, as well in the production as in the cure, of 
diseases. ^' If you wish to work prodigies,'' says he^ ^' abstract from 
the materiality of beings — increase the sum of spirituality in bodies 
-—rouse the spirit from its slumbers. Unless you do one or other of 
these things — unless you can bind the idea, you can never perform 
any thing good or great." Here, in fact, lies the whole secret of 
magnetism, and all delusions of a similar kind : increase the spiritu- 
ality — rouse the spirit from its slumbers, or, in other words, work 
Upon the imagination — induce belief and blind confidence, and 
you' may do any thing. This passage, which is quoted with appro- 
bation by M. Dupotet* in a work, as strongly corroborative of the 
theory now advanced by the animal magnetists, is just the reverse. 
If they believe they can work all their wonders by the means so dimly 
shadowed forth by Maxwell, what becomes of the universal fluid per- 
vading all nature, and which they pretend to pour into weak and dis^ 
eased bodies from the tips of their fingers ? 

Early in the eighteenth century the attention of Europe was di- 
I'eoted to a very remarkable instance of fanaticism, which has been 
claimed by the animal magnetists as a proof of their sciend^. The 
ConvtUsionaries of St. Medard^ as they were called, assembled in great 
numbers round the tomb of their favourite saint, the Jansenist priest 
Paris, and taught one another how to fall into convulsions. They 
believed that St. Paris would cure all their infirmities ; and the num- 
ber of hysterical women and weak-minded persops of all descriptions 
that flocked to the tomb from far and near was so great as daily to 
block. up all the avenues leading to it. Working themselves up tp 
a pitch of excitement, they went off. one after the other into fits, while 
some of them, still in apparent possession of all their faculties, volun- 

* Introduetion to the Study of Animal Maffwtim, p. 818. 

18 



1 



274: EXTKAOKDQIJJLT POFUXiJl D£LTJSIOKS. 

tarily exposed tkemsdres to «afferingB which on ordinaiy oooasions 
would have bee& sufficient to deprive them of life. The sceneB thai 
oeouired weie a scandal to civiliiation and to religion — a «tmnge mix- 
ture of obscenity, absurdity, and superstition. While some were 
praying on bended knees at the shrine of Bt. Bans, others were shrin- 
ing and maldi^ the most hideous noises. The women especially 
exerted ihemselyes. On one side of the chapel there might be seen a 
score of them, all in convulsions ; while at another as many morei^ 
excited to a sort of frenzy, yielded th^nselves up to gross indeoendLes. 
Some of them took an insane delight in being beaten and trampled 
upon. One in particular, according to Mont^;re, whose account wa> 
quote,* was so enraptured with this ill-usage, that nothing but the 
hardest blows would satisfy her. While a fellow of Herculean strength < 
was beating her with all his might with a heavy bar of iron, she kept 
continually urging him to renewed exertion, ^e harder he strack 
the better she Itked it, exdaiming all the while, ^' Well done, brother, 
well done i Oh, how pleasant it is t what good you are doii^ me ! 
Courage, my brother, courage; strike harder, strike harder still 1" 
Another of these fanatics had, if possible, a still greater love for a 
beating. Oarr^ de Montg^on, who relates the dreumatance, was un- 
able to satisfy her with sixty blows of a krge sledge-hammer. He 
afterwards used the same weapon with the same degree of strength, 
for the saks of exp^imeot, and succeeded in battering a hole in a 
stone wall at the twenty-fifth dfcroke. Another woman, named Son- 
net, kid herself down on a red-hot brasder without flindiing, and 
acquired for herself the nidmame of ihe Salcmander; while others, 
desirous of a more illustrious martyrdom, attempted to cnscify them- 
selves. M. Deieuze, in his critical history of Animal Moffnetmn,, at- 
tempts to prove that this fanatical frenzy was produced by magnetifim, 
and that these mad endiusiasts magnetised eadi other wilhout being 
awaa^ of it. As well might he insist that the lonaticism which tempts 
the Hintloo l»got to ke^ his arms HBtretehed in a horiaontal pos^i^ 
tm the smews wither, or his fillers closed upon hts palms tiU the 
nails grow oat of the backs of his hands, is also an effect of mf^;ne- 
tism! 

For a period of sixty or ^ev^vty yeans magnetism was almost wholly 
confined to €l€Tmany. Men of sense and leaiming devoted their atten- 
tion to the properties of the loadstone ; «&d one Father HeU, a Jesvdt, 
and pnrfflMier -of astronomy at the Umvenitf^ of Vienna, rendered him- 
self famous by his magnetic cures. About tike year 1771 or 1772 he 
invented 8teel*fdates of a pecuUar form, whidx he Applied to the naked 

* Dieticmaire des Sdemes ifidteofes— Article ConvuUUnmaireBf par MonUgre. 



Tins UAGinSTISBSUS. 275^ 

body as a cure for several dtseases. lu the year 1774 he comiiium- 
ottted his ^st^aa to Anthcmy MesBier. The latter improved upon the 
ideas of Father Hell, constructed a new theory of hk oim, and be* 
came the founder of Avihal Magsxtibm. 

It has been the £Mhion among the enemies of the new delusion to 
decry Mesmer as an unpriiudpled adventurer, while his disciples have 
extolled him to the skies as a regenerator of the human race. In 
nearly the same words as the Bosicrucians applied to their founders^ 
he has been called the discoverer of the secret which brings man into 
more intimate connexion with his Oeator, the deliverer of the soul 
from the debasing trammels of the flesh, the man who enables us to 
set time at d^anee, and conquer the obstructicmB of space. A care- 
ful ftifting of his jwetensions, and examination of the evidence brought 
forward to sustain them, will soon shew which opinion is the more 
correct. That the writer of these pages considers him in the li^t of 
a man who, deluding himsdlf, was the means of deluding others, may 
be infenred from his finding a place in these volumes, and figuring 
among the Flames, the Agrippas, the Bonds, the Bdhmens, and the 
Gagliostroe. 

He was bom in May 1734, at Mersburg, in Swabia, and studied 
medicine at the University of Vienna, He took his degrees in 1766, 
and ehoee the influence of the planets <m the human body as the sub- 
ject of his inaugural dissertation. Having treated the matter quite 
in Hie style of the old astrological physicians^ he was exposed to some 
ridicule both then and afterwards. Even at this early period some 
faint ideas of his great the(»7 were genxmiating in his mind« He 
maintained in his dissertaticMa ^' that the sun, moon, and fixed stars 
mutually affect each other in their orbits ; that they cause and direct 
in our earth a flux and reflux not only in the sea, but in the atmo- 
sphere, and affect in a similar manner all organked bodies through 
the medium of a subtile and mobile fluid, which pervades the uni- 
verse, and associates all things together in mutusd intercourse and 
harmony." This influ^xce, he said, was particularly exercised on the 
nervous system, and produced two states, which he called intetmont 
and remiasiony which seemed to him to account for the different pe- 
riodical revolutions observable in several maladies. When io. after- 
life he met with Father Hell, he waa confirmed by that person's ob- 
servations in. the truth of many of his own ideas. Having caused 
Hell to make him some magnetic plates, he determined to try experi- 
ments with them himself for his further satisfaction. 

He tried accordingly, and was astonished at his success. The faitlt 
of their wearers operated wonders with the metallic plates. Mesmec 



276 EXTBAOaDINABY POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

made due reports to Father Hell of all he had done, and the latter 
published them as the results of his own happy invention, and speak- 
ing of Mesmer as a physician whom he had employed to work under 
him. Mesmer took offence at being thus treated, considering himself 
a far greater personage than Father Hell. He claimed the invention 
as his own, accused Hell of a breach of confidence, and stigmatised 
him as a mean person, anxious to turn the discoveries of others to- his 
own account. Hell replied, and a very pretty quarrel was the result, 
which afforded small talk for months to the literati of Vienna. Hell 
ultimately gained the victory. Mesmer, nothing daunted, continued 
to promulgate his views till he stumbled at last upon the animal theory. 

One of his patients was a young lady, named (Bsterline, who suf- 
fered under a convulsive malady. Her attacks were periodical, and 
attended by a rush of blood to the head, followed by delirium and 
syncope. These symptoms he soon succeeded in reducing under his 
system of planetary influence, and imagined he could foretell the pe- 
riods of accession and remission. Having thus accounted satisfac- 
torily to himself for the origin of the disease, the idea struck him that 
he could operate a certain cure if he could ascertain beyond douht, 
what he had long believed, that there existed between the bddies 
i/ifhich compose our globe an action equally reciprocal and similar to 
that of the heavenly bodies, by means of which he could imitate arti- 
ficially the periodical revolutions of the flux and reflux before men- 
tioned. He soon convinced himself that this action did exist. When 
tiying the metallic plates of Father Hell, he thought their efficacy 
depended on their form ; but he found afterwards that he could pro- 
duce the same effects without using them at all, merely by passing 
his hands downwards towards the feet of the patient, even when at a. 
considerable distance. 

This completed the theory of Mesmer. He wrote an account of 
his discovery to all the learned societies of Europe, soliciting their 
investigation. The Academy of Sciences at Berlin was the only one 
that answered him, and their answer was any thing but favourable to 
his system or flattering to himself. Still he was not discouraged. 
He maintained to all who would listen to him that the magnetic 
matter, or fluid, pervaded all the universe — that every human body 
contained it, and could communicate the superabundance of it to 
another by an exertion of the will. Writing to a friend from Vienna, 
he said, ^* I have observed that the magnetic is almost the same thing 
as the electric fluid, and that it may be propagated in the same 
manner, by means of intermediate bodies. Steel is not the only sub- 
stance adapted to this purpose. I have rendered paper, bread, .wool. 



THE MAGNETISEBS. 277 

silky stones, leather, glass, wood, men, and dogs — in short, every 
thing I touched, magnetic to such ad^;ree, that these substances pro- 
duced the same effects as the loadstone on diseased persons. I have 
chaiged jars with magnetic matter in the same way as is done with 
electricity.*' 

Mesmer did not long find his residence at Vienna as agreeable as 
he wished. His pretensions were looked upon with contempt or in- 
difference, and the case of Mademoiselle (Esterline brought him less 
SaJif^e than notoriety* He determined to change his sphere of action, 
and travelled into Swabia and Switzerland. In the latter country he 
met with the celebrated Father Gassner, who, like Valentine Great- 
raks, amused himself by casting out devils, and healuig the sick by 
merely laying hands upon them. At his approach, delicate girls 
feU into convulsions, and hypochondriacs fancied themselves ciu^. 
His house was daily besieged by the lame, the blind, and the hysteric. 
Mesm^ at once acknowledged the efficacy of his cures, and declared 
that they were the obvious result of his own newly-discovered power 
of magnetism. A few of the father's patients were forthwith subjected 
to the manipulations of Mesmer, and the same symptoms were induced. 
He then tried his hand upon some paupers in the hospitals of Berne 
and Zurich, and succeeded, according to his own account, but no 
other person's, in curing au opththalmia and a gutta serena. With 
meworials of these achievements he returned to Vienna, in the hope 
of silencing his enemies, or at least forcing them to respect his newly- 
acquired reputation, and to examine his system more attentively. 

His second appearance in that capital was not more auspicious 
than the first. He undertook to cure a Mademoiselle Paradis, who 
was quite blind, and subject to convulsions. He magnetised h^r 
several times, and then declared that she was cured ; at least, if she 
was not, it was her fault and not his. An eminent oculist of that 
day, named Barth, went to visit her, and declared that she was as 
blind as ever ; while her family said she was as much subject to con- 
vulsions as before. Mesmer persisted that she was cured. Like the 
French philosopher, he would not allow facts to interfere with his 
theory.^ He declared that there was a conspiracy against him ; ai^d 
that Mademoiselle Paradis, at the instigation of her family, feigned 
blindness in order to injure his reputation 1 

The consequences of this pretended cure taught Mesmer that 

* An enthasiastic philosopher, of whose name we are not Informed, had constmcted a 
very satis&ctory thaory on some subject or other, and was not a little proud of it. '' But 
the facts, my dear fellow," said his friend, " the facts do not agree with your theory." — 
" Don't they?" replied the philosopher, shrugging his shoulders, " then, tant pis pour Us 
faits ;"— so much the worse for the facts ! 



278 EXTBAOBBINikBT TOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

Yieima was not ihb flphsM for him. Paris, the 4cBe, the debaadied, 
the pleAsare-hunting, the noT«lty4ovi3ig, was the soene for a fitdlo- 
fiopher like him, and thith^ he r^>aired aooofdmgly. He amv«d at 
Fwris in 1778, and h^gaxi modestly by making himsdf and his theory 
known to the principal physicians. At first, his encouragement was 
bat slig^; he lotmd people moro inclined to langh at than to patron- 
ise him. Bat he was a man who had great confidence in hims^, 
and of a pa^yemnoe which no difficulties could overcome. He hired 
a 'Sumptuous apartmeitt, which he opened to all comers who chose to 
make trial of the new power of nature. M. D'Eslon, a phyindan of 
great reputation, became a convert ; and from that time, ammal 
magnetism, or, as some called it, mesmerism, became the fu^on in 
Paris. The women were quite enthusiastic about it, and their 
admiring tattle wafted its fame through every grade of society. Mes- 
mw was the rage ; and high and low, rich and poor, credulous and 
unbelieving, all hastened to convince themselves of the power of this 
mi^ty magician, who made such magnificent promises. Afesmer, 
who knew as well as any man living the influence of the imaginatien, 
'determined that, on that score, nothing should be wanting to heighten 
the effect of the magnetic charm. In all Paris, ^^re was not a house 
80 charmingly furnished as Monnear Mesmer's. Bichly-stained glass 
shed a dim religious light on his spacious saloons, which were almost 
covered with mirrors. Orange-blossoms scented all the air of his 
corridors ; incense of the most expensive kinds burned in antique 
vases <m his chimney-pieces ; seolian harps sighed melodkwB music 
from distant chambers ; while sometimes a sweet female voice, ^m 
above or below, stole softly upon the mysterious silence that was kept 
in the house, and insisted upon fix)m all visitors. • " Was ever ani/ 
thing so ddightfvl /" cried all the Mrs. Wittitterleys of Paris, as t^ey 
thronged to his house in search of pleasant excitement; ^^ So won- 
derful /" said the pseudo-philosophers, who would believe any thing if 
it were the fashion ; ** So amudng /" said the worn-out debauches, 
who had drained the cup of sensuality to its dregs, and who longed to 
see lovely women in convulsions, with the hope that they might gain 
some new emotions from the sight. 

The following was the mode of operation : In the centre of the 
saloon was placed an oval vessel, about four feet in its longest diameter, 
and one foot deep. In this were Ifdd a number of wine-bottles, filled 
with magnetised water, well corked-up, and dii^posed in radii, with 
their necks outwards. Water was then poured into the vess^ so ag^ 
just to cover the bottles, and filings of iron were thrown in occadonally 
to heighten the magnetic effect. The vessel was then covered with an 



Iroii ooTer, planed ihrou|^ whii many holes, and was oaUed tiie 
baquet. From each hole issued a long movable rod of iron, whkdi 
the patients w^« to apply to snch parts of their bodies as were 
afflieted. Around this bc^fuei ihe patients were directed to at, hold- 
ing eaoh other bj the hand, and pressiug their knees togetiber as 
oloadj as po68U>le, to faciiitate the passage of the magnetic fluid from 
one to the other. 

Then came in the assistant magneiisers, gea^callj stroag, hand- 
some joung m<»i, to pour into the patient frcwa ^eir fingear-tips ficesh 
steeams of the wondrous fluid. They embraoed the patient between 
the knees, rubbed them gently down the spine and the course of the 
nenves, using gmitk preesune upon the breasts of the ladies, and 
staring them out of countenance to magnetise ihem by the eye I All 
this time the most rigorous silence was maintained, with the exception 
ni a few wild notes on the harmonica (»* the piano-forte, or the melo- 
dions voice of a hidden opera^singer swelling softly at long intervals. 
€h»daally the cheeks of the ladies began to glow, their imaginations 
to become inflamed ; and off they went, one after the other, in con- 
vulsive fits. Some of them sobbed and tore their hair, others laughed 
till the tears ran from their eyes, while others shrieked and screamed 
and jFelled till they became insensible altc^ether. 

This was the crisb of the delirium. In the midst of it, the chief 
actor made his appearance, waving his wand, like Proqiero, to work 
new wonders. Dressed in a long robe of lilac-coloured sUk richly 
embroidered with gold flowers, bearing in his hand a white magnetic 
rod, and with a look of dignity which would have sat well on an 
eastern caliph, he marched with solemn strides into the room. He 
awed the still sensible by his eye, and the violence of their symptoms 
diminished. He stroked the insensible with his hands upon the eye- 
brows and down the spine ; traced figures upon their breast and ab- 
domen with his long white wand, and they were restored to conscious- 
nesftf They became calm, acknowledged his power, and said they 
felt sk^ams of cold or burning vapour passing through their frames, 
according as he waved his wand or his fingers b^ore them. 

'^ It is impossible," says M. Dupotet, ^' to conceive the sensation 
which Mesmer's experiments created in Paris. Ko theological con- 
troversy, in the earlier ages of the Catholic Church, was ever con- 
ducted with greater bitterness. " His adversaries denied the discovery ; 
some calling him a quack, others a fool, and others again, like the 
Abb6 Fiard, a man who had sold himself to Hie Devil ! His friends 
were as extravagant in their praise, as his foes were in their censure. 
FBxia was inundated with punphlets uppn the subject, as many de- 
fending as attacking the doctrine. At court, the queen expressed 



280 EXTEAOBJDIKABT POFULAB I)£LUSIONS. 

herself in fitvour of it, and nothing else was to be heard <^ in so- 
ciety. 

By the advice of M. D'Eslon, Mesmer challenged an examination 
of his doctrine by the Faculty of Medicine. He proposed to select 
twenty-four patients, twelve of whom he would treat magnetically, 
leaving the other twelve to be treated by the faculty according to the 
old and approved methods. He also stipulated that, to prevent dis- 
putes, the government should nominate certain persons who were not 
physicians, to be present at the experiments ; and that the object of 
the inquiry should be, not how these effects were produced, bitt wi- 
ther they were really efficacious in the cure of any disease. She 
&culty objected to limit the inquiry in this manner, and the propo- 
sition fell to the ground. 

Mesmer now wrote to Marie Antoinette, with the view of seottiiBg 
her influence in obtaining for him the protection of government. He 
vtished to have a ch&teau and its lands given to him, with a I»ind- 
some yearly income, that he might be enabled to continue his experi- 
ments at leisure, untroubled by the persecution of his enemies. He 
hinted the duty of governments to support men of science, and ex- 
pressed his fear, that if he met no more encouragement, he should be 
compelled to carry his great discovery to some other land more will- 
ing to appreciate him. " In the eyes of your majesty,'* said he, ^^four 
or ^Ye hundred thousand francs, applied to a good purpose, are of no 
account. The welfare and happiness of your people are eveiy thing. 
My discovery ought to be received and rewarded with a munificence 
worthy of the monarch to whom I shall attach myself." The govern- 
ment at last offered him a pension of twenty thousand francs, and 
the cross of the order of St. Michael, if he had made any discovery in 
medicine, and would communicate it to physicians nominated by the 
king. The latter part of the proposition was not agreeable to Mesmer. 
He feared the unfavourable report of the king's physicians ; and, 
breaking off the negotiation, spoke of his disregard of money, and his 
wish to have his discovery at once recognised by the government. 
He then retired to Spa, in a fit of disgust, upon pretence of drinking 
the waters for the benefit of his health. 

After he had left Paris, the Faculty of Medicine called upon M. 
B'Eslon, for the third and last time, to renounce the doctrine of ani- 
mal magnetism, or be expelled from their body. M. D'Eslon, so far 
from doing this, declared that he had discovered new secrets, and soli- 
cited further examination. A royal commission of the Faculty of 
Medicine was, in consequence, appointed on the 12th» of March 1784, 
seconded by another commission of the Acad4mie dee Sciences, to in- 
vestigate the phenomena and report upon them. The first commis- 



THE MAGK£TIS£BS. 281 

*fion was composed of the principal physicians of Paris ; while, among 
the eminent men comprised in the Wter, were Bepjamin Franklin, 
Lavoisier, and Bailly the historian of astronomy. Mesmer was for- 
mally invited to appear before this body, but absented himself from 
«by to day, upon one pretence or another. M. D'Eslon was more 
honest, because he thoroughly believed in the phenomena, which it is 
to be questioned if Mesmer ever did, and regularly attended the sit- 
tings and performed experiments. 

Batlly has thus described the scenes of which he was a witness in 
tbe course of this investigation. '^ The sick persons, arranged in great 
numbers and in several rows around the haquet^ receive the magnetism 
by all these means : by the iron rods which convey it to them from 
the baquet — by the cords wound round their bodies — by the connexion 
«f the thumb, which conveys to them the magnetism of their neigh- 
bours— *and by the sounds of a piano-forte, or of an agreeable voice, 
diffusing the magnetism in the air. The patients were also directly 
magnetised by means of the finger and wand of the magnetiser moved 
slowly before their faces, above or behind their heads, and on the dis- 
eased parts, always observing the direction of the holes. The magne> 
• titer acts by fixing his eyes on them. But above all, they are mag- 
netised by the application of his hands and the pressure of his fingers, 
on the hypochondres and on the regions of the abdomen ; an applica- 
tion often continued for a long time — sometimes for several hours. 

^^ Meanwhile the patients in their different conditions present a. 
very varied picture. Some are calm, tranquil, and experience no 
effect. Others cough, spit, feel slight pains, local or general heat,, 
and have sweatings. Others again are agitated and tormented with 
convulsions. These convulsions are remarkable m regard to the num- 
ber affected with them, to their duration and force. As soon as one 
begins to be convulsed, several others are affected. The commis- 
sioners have observed some of these convulsions last more than three 
hours. They are accompanied with expectorations of a muddy viscous 
water, brought away by violent efforts. Sometimes streaks of blood 
have been observed in this fluid. These convulsions are characterised 
by the precipitous, involuntary motion of all the limbs, and of the. 
whole body ; by the contraction of the throat — by the leaping mo- 
tions of the hypochondria and the epigastrium— by the dimness and 
wandering of the eyes—by piercing shrieks, tears, sobbing, and im- 
moderate laughter. They are preceded or followed by a state of lan- 
gour or reverie, a kind of depression, and sometimes drowsiness. The 
smallest sudden noise occasions a shuddering ; and it was remarked, 
that the change of measure in the airs played on the piano-forte had 



282 EXTBAOBDHTAJIT POFULAJL DELUSIONS. 

a great inflvience on th« patients. A quicker motiim, a livelier me- 
lody, agitated them more, and renewed the Mvmdty of their oqutuI- 
flions. 

'^ Nothing is move astonishing than the spectade of these consul- 
gions. One wha has not seen them can fonn no idea of ^em. The 
spectator is as much astonished at the profound repose ci one portion 
of the patients as at the agitation of the rest; — at the vmoosaecideBts 
which are repeated, and at the sympathies whtdi are exhibited. Some 
of the patients may be seen dcToting their attention exchisiTely to 
one another, rushing towards each other with open aims, smiling, 
soothing, and manifesting every symptom of attachment aad afiecto^m. 
All are under the powa* of the magnetiser; it moti^^ not in what 
state of drowsiness they may be, the sound of his T(»ce — a look^ a 
motion of his hand — brings them out of it. Aatimg the patients- in 
convulsions there are always observed a great many women, and very 
few men."* 

These experiments lasted for about five months. They had htHniiy 
commenced, before Mesmer, alarmed at the lora both <^ fasae and 
profit, determined to return to Paris. Some patients of rai^ and for- 
tune, enthusiastic believers in his doctrine, had followed him ioSpa,, 
One of them named Bergasse, proposed to open a sabscriptian £dr 
him, of one himdred shares, at one hundred louis earh, on con&tkm 
that he would disclose his secret to the subscribers, who were to be 
permitted to make whatever use they pleased of it. Mesmer readily 
embraced the proposal ; and such was the infatuation, that the sub- 
scription was not only filled in a few days, but exceeded by na less a 
sum than one hundred and forty thousand francs. 

With this fortune he returned to Pans, and recommenced his ex- 
peiiments, while the royal commission continued theirs^ His admir- 
ing pupils, who had paid him so hands(«nely for his instructions, 
spread his fame over the country, and established in all the prin- 
cipal towns of France, '^ Societies of Harmony,^' for trying experi- 
m^its and curing aU diseases by means of magnetism. Some of ihme 
societies were a scandal to morality, b^g joined by profligate men 
of depraved appetites, who took a disgusting delight in witnessing 
young girls in convulsions. Many of the pretended magnetisers were 
asserted at the time to be notanous libertkies, who took that oppor- 
tonity of gratifying their paarioM. 

At last the commissioners publii^ed their report, which was drawn 
up by the illustrious and unfortunate BaiUy . For clearness of reason- 
ing and strict impartiality it has never been surpassed. After detail- 

• Bapport cfe« Oomtimaaires, T6dig6 par M. Ballly. Paria, 1784. 



THE KAGNETISBB8. 283 

ing the ^nuioos experiments made, and their results, thej came to the 
oonclusion that the only proof advanced in support of animal magnet- 
ism was the effects it produced on the human body — that those effects 
eould be produced without passes or other magnetic manipulations — 
that all these manipulations and passes and ceremonies neyer produce 
any effect at all if employed without the patient's knowledge ; and 
that therefore imagination did, and animal magnetism did not^ ac- 
count for the phenomena. 

This report was the ruin of Mesmer's reputation in France. He 
quitted Paris shortly after, with the three hundred and forty thou- 
sand francs whidi had been subscribed by his admirers, and retired 
to his own country, where he died in 1815, at the advanced age of 
ejghty-one. But the seeds he had sown fructified of themselves, 
mmrished and brought to maturity by the kindly warmth of popular 
credulity. Imitators sprang up in France, Germany, and England, 
more extravagant than their master, and claiming powers for the new 
science which its founder had neTer dreamt of. Among others, Cag- 
lioetro made good use of the delusion in extending his claims to be 
considered a master of the occult sciences. But he made no disco- 
Teries worthy to be compared to those of the Marquis de Puysegur 
and the Chevalier Barbarin, honest men, who began by deceiving 
themselves before they deceived others. 

The Marquis de Puysegur, the owner of a considerable estate at 
Bnsancy, was one of those who had entered into the subscription for 
Mesmer. After that individual had quitted France, he retired to 
Biisancy, with his brother, to try animal magnetism upon his tenants, 
and cure the countiy people of aU mauner of ^seases. He was a man 
of great simplicity and much benevolence, and not only magnetised 
Imt fed the sick that flocked around him. In all the neighbourhood, 
and indeed within a circumference of twenty miles, he was looked upon 
as endowed with a power almost divine. His great discovery, as he 
called it, was made by <diance. One day he had magnetised his gar- 
dener ; and observing him to &11 into a deep sleep, it occurred to 
him that he would address a questkm to him, as he would have done 
to a natural somnambulist. He did so, and the man replied with 
much clearness and precision. M. de Puysegur was agreeably sur- 
prised : he continued his experiments, and found that, in this state 
of magnetic somnambulism^ the mtd of the deeper was enlarged^ and 
IfWiffht into more mtimaie communion with all naturCy and more espe- 
cially with him^ M, de Pu^tegur* He found that all further manipu- 
lations were unnecessaiy ; that, without speaking or making any sign, 
he could convey his will to the patient ; that he could, in fact, con- 



284 £XTBAOBJ)IKA£T FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

verse with him, soul to soul, without the employment of any physical 
operation whatever I 

Simultaneously with this marvellous discovery he made another, 
which reflects equal credit upon his understanding. Like Valentine 
Greatraks, he found it hard work to magnetise all that came — thai 
he had not even time to take the repose and relaxation which were 
necessary for his health. In this emergency he hit upon a clever ex* 
pedient. He had heard Mesmer say that he could magnetise bits of 
wood : why should he not be able to magnetise a whole tree? li 
was no sooner thought than done. There was a large elm on the^ 
village green at Busancy, under which the peasant girls used to dattce 
on festive occasions, and the old men to sit, drinking their vim du 
pa^Sy on the fine summer evenings. M. de Puysegur proceeded to tidd 
tree and magnetised it, by first touching it with his hands, and tibea 
retiring a few steps from it ; aU the while directing streams of the 
magnetic fluid from the branches toward the trunk, and from the 
trunk toward the root. This done, he caused circular seats to be 
erected round it, and cords suspended from it in all directions. When 
the patients had seated themselves, they twisted the cords round th^ 
diseased parts of their bodies, and held one another firmly by their 
thumbs to form a direct channel of communication for the passage 
of the fluid. 

M. de Puys^ur had now two " hobbies" — ^the man with the enlarged 
soul and the magnetic elm. The infatuation of himself and his pa* 
tients cannot be better expressed than in his own words. Writing to 
his brother, on the 17th of May 1784, he says, " If you do not come, 
my dear friend, you will not see my extraordinary man, for his health 
is now almost quite restored. I continue to make use of the happy 
power for which I am indebted to M. Mesmer. Every day I bless his 
name ; for I am very useful, and produce many salutary effects on 
all the sick poor in the neighbourhood. They flock around my tree ; 
there were more than one hundred and thirty of them this morning. 
It is the best baquet possible ; not a leaf of it but communicates health ! 
all feel, more or less, the good effects of it. You will be delighted to 
see the charming picture of humanity which this presents. I have 
only one regret — it is, that I cannot touch all who come. But my 
magnetised man — my intelligence — sets me at ease. He teaches me 
what conduct I should adopt. According to him, it is not at all ne- 
cessary that I should touch every one ; a look, a gesture, even a wish, 
is sufficient. And It is one of the most ignorant peasants of the country 
that teaches me this ! When he is in a crisis, I know of nothing more 
profound, more prudent, more clearsighted {clairvoyant) than he is.'* 



THE HAGNETISSBS. 285 

lu another letter, describing his first expeiiment with the mag* 
netic tree, he says, " Yesterday evening I brought my first patient to 
it. As soon as I had put the cord round him he gazed at the tree ; 
atnd, Trith an air of astonishment which I cannot describe, exclaimed, 
^ What is it that I see there Y His head then sunk down, and he 
fell into a perfect fit of somnambulism. At the end of an hour, I 
took him home to his house again, when I restored him to his senses. 
Sevaial men and women came to tell him what he had been doing. 
He maintained it was not true ; that, weak as he was, and scarcely 
:able to walk, it would have been scarcely possible for him to have 
goae down stairs and walked to the tree. To-day I have repeated 
ihe experiment on him, and with the same success. I own to you 
ihat my head turns round with pleasure to think of the good I do% 
IMbdame de Puysegur, the friends she has with her, my servants, and, 
in fact, all who are near me, feel an amazement, mingled with admi- 
ration, which cannot be described ; but they do not experience the 
half of my sensations. Without my tree, which gives me rest, and 
which will give me still more, I should be in a state of agitation, in- 
consistent, I believe, with my health. I exist too much, if I may be 
allowed to use the expression." 

In another letter, he descants still more poetically upon his gar- 
dener with the enlarged soul. He says, " It is from this simple man, 
this tall and stout rustic, twenty-three years of age, enfeebled by dis- 
ease, or rather by sorrow, and therefore the more predisposed to be 
affected by any great natural agent, — it is from this man, I repeat, 
that I derive instruction and knowledge. When in the magnetic 
state, he is no longer a peasant who can hardly utter a single sen- 
tence ; he is a being, to describe whom I cannot find a name. I need 
not speak ; / have (ynly to think before him, when he iThstanUy under- 
stands and answers me. Should any body come into the room, he 
sees him, if I desire it (but not else), and addresses him, and says 
what I wish to say ; not indeed exactly as I dictate to him, but as 
truth requires. When he wants to add more than I deem it prudent 
strangers should hear, I stop the flow of his ideas, and of his conver- 
sation in the middle of a word, and give it quite adiflFerent turn !" 

Among other persons attracted to Busancy by the report of these 
extraordinary occurrences was M. Cloquet, the Receiver of Finance. 
His appetite for the marvellous being somewhat insatiable, he readily 
believed all that was told him by M. de Puysegur. He also has left 
a record of what he saw, and what he credited, which throws a stiU 
clearer light upon the progress of the delusion.* He says that the 
patients he saw in the magnetic state had an appearance of deep sleep, 

♦ Introduction to the Study of Animal Magnetism, by Baron Diipotet, p. 73. 



286 EXTSAOBDINASY fOFULAB. DELUSIONS. 

durmg wliich all the physical faculties were susp^^ded, to the advan- 
tage of the iBtellectual faculties. The ejes of the potieuts wai^ 
closed) the sense of hearing was abolished ; aad they awoke only at 
the voice of their magnetiser. ^' If any oae toudied a patient during 
a crisis, or even the chair on which he waa seated,** says M. Oloquet, 
'^ it would cause him much pain and sufifering, and ^jtow him into 
Qi»ivulfiionB. Puring the crisis, they possess an estraordinairy and 
aupematm^ power, by which, on touching a patient presented to 
thm, they can leel what part of his body is diseased, even by merely 
passing their hand oyer the clothes." Ani^er singularity was, thai 
these deepers who could thus discover diseases, see into the intector 
of other m^Q's stomachs, and point out remedies, remembered abso^ 
lately nothing after the magnetiser thought proper to daseochatiti 
them. The time that elapsed between iheir entering the crisis and 
their coming out of it was obliterated. Not only had the magnetaser 
the power of making himself heard by the somnambulists, but he 
could make them follow him by merely pointing his finger at them 
&om a distance, though they had their eyes the whole time oompleiely 
dosed. 

Such was animal magnetism under the aui^ices of the Marquis .4e 
Puysegur. While he was exhibiting these phenomena arooad his ehn- 
tree, a magnetiser of another class appeared in Lyons, in the person 
of the Chevalier de Barbarin. This gentleman thought the elTort oC 
the wiU, without any of the paraphernalia of wands or haguets^ waa 
sufficient to throw patients into the magnetic sleep. He tried it and 
succeeded. By sitting at the bedmde of his patients, and praying tibyii 
thi^ might be magnetised, they went off into a state very similar to. 
that of the persons who fell under the notice of M. de Puysegur. In 
the course of time a very considerable number of magnetisers, acknow- 
ledging Barbarin for their model, and called after him Barbarinists^ 
appeared in different parts, and were believed to have effected some 
remarkable cures. In Sweden and Germany this sect of fanatics in- 
(sveased rapidly, and were called spiritualists^ to distinguish them from 
the followers of M. de Puysegur, who were called experimerdalisU* 
They maintained that all the effects of aninud magnetism, which Mes- 
mer beheved to be producible by a magnetic fluid dispersed through 
nature, were produced by the mere effort of oi^ human soul acting, 
upon another ; that when a connexicm had once been established be- 
tween a magnetiser and his patient, the former could communicate 
his influence to the latter from any distance, even hundreds of miles, 
by the wilL One of them thus described the blessed state of a mag- 
netic patient : '^ In such a man animal instinct ascends to the highest 
degree admissible in this world. The clairvoyant is then a pure ani- 



TH£ MAGKETMXBS. 287 

mal, without any admixture of matter. His obfienrations are those 
of a spirit. He is similar to God : his eye penetrates all the secrets 
of nature. When his attention is fixed on any of the objects of this 
world— -on his disease, his death, his well-beloved, his friends, his re- 
lations, his enemies — in spirit he sees them acting ; he penetrates into 
the causes and the consequences of their actions ; he becomes a phy- 
sieian, a ^nxiphei, a divine!"* 

Let us now see what progress these mysteries made in England. 
In the year 1788 Dr. Mainauduc, who had been a pupil, first of Mes- 
mer and afta^wards of D'Eslon, arrived in Bristol, and gave public 
lectures upon magnetism. His success was quite extraordinary. People 
of rank and fortune hastened from London to Bristol to be magnetieed^ 
or to place themselves under his tuition. Dr. George Winter, in his 
Hittory of Animal Magnetitm^ gives the following list of them : * * They 
amounted to one hundred and twenty-seven, among whom there were 
one duke, one duchess, one marchioness, two eoimtesses, one earl, 
one baron, three baronesses, one bishop, five ri^t honourable gentle- 
men and ladies, two baronets, seven members of parliament, one clergy- 
man, two phyndans, seven fiui^eons, besides ninety-two gentlemen. 
and ladies of respectability." He afterwards established himself in 
London, where he performed with equal success. 

He began by publishing proposals to the ladies for the formation 
of a Hygeian Society. In this paper he vaunted highly the curative 
effects of animal magnetism, and took great credit to himself for being 
the first person to introduce it into England, and thus concluded : 
'^ As this method of cure is not confined to sex or college education, 
and the &ir sex being in general the most sympathising part of the 
creation, and most immediately concerned in the health and care of 
its offspring, I think myself boimd in gratitude to you, ladies, for the 
partiality you have shewn me in midwif^, to contribute, as far as 
lies in my power, to render you additionally useful and valuable to 
the community. With this view I propose forming my Hygeian So- 
ciety, to be incorporated with that of Paris. As soon as twenty ladies 
have given in their onmes, the day shall be appointed for the first 
meeting at my house, when tiiey are to pay fifteen guineas, which 
will include ^e whole ej^ense." 

Hannah More, in a letter addressed to Horace Walpole in Septem^ 
her 1788, speaks of the ^'demoniacal mummeries" of Dr. Mainauduc, 
and says he was in a fair way of gaining a hundred thousand pounds 
by tiiem, as Meaner had done by his exhibitions in Paxis. 

So much curiosity was excited by the subject, that, about th^ 
same time, a man named Holloway gave a course of lectures on ani- 

* Bee Fwtifn lUinem tmd CwtinaUtU Miteellant/, vol. v.. p. 113. 



288 EXTBAOBDIKASY POPUIAB DELUSIONS. 

mal magnetism in London, at the rate of five guineas for each pupil^ 
and realised a considerable fortune. Loutherbourg the painter and 
his wife followed the same profitable trade ; and such was the infa- 
tuation of the people to be witnesses of their strange manipulations, 
that at times upwards of three thousand persons crowded around their 
house at Hammersmith, unable to gain admission. The tickets sold 
at prices varying from one to three guineas. Loutherbourg performed 
his cures by the touch, after the manner of Valentine Greatraks, and 
finally pretended to a divine mission. An account of his miracles, as 
they were called, was published in 1789, entitled A List of New Guru 
'performed hf Mr. aTid Mrs, de LoiUherbourg^ of Haminersmith Terrace, 
without Medicine; hy a Lover of the Lamb of God, Dedicaied to his 
Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, 

This " Lover of the Lamb of Gk)d" was a half-crazy old woman, 
named Mary Pratt, who conceived for Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg 
a veneration which almost prompted her to worship them. She chose 
for the motto of her pamphlet a verse in the thirteenth chapter of the 
Acts of the Apostles : " Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish I 
for I will work a work in your days which ye shall not believe, though 
a man declare it unto you." Attempting to give a religious character 
to the cures of the painter, she thought a woman was the proper per- 
son to make them known, since the apostle had declared that a fMin 
should not be able to conquer the incredulity of the people. She 
stated, that from Christmas 1788 to July 1789, De Loutherbourg and 
his wife had cured two thousand people, " having been made proper 
.recipients to receive divine mamiductions ; which heavenly and divine 
influx, coming from the radix God, his Divine Majesty had most gra- 
ciously bestowed upon them to diffuse healing to all, be they deaf, 
dumb, blind, lame, or halt." 

In her dedication to the Archbishop of Canterbury she implored 
him to compose a new form of prayer, to be used in all churches and 
chapels, that nothing might impede this inestimable gift from having 
its due course. She further entreated all the magistrates and men of 
authority in the land to wait on Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg, to 
consult with them on the immediate erection of a large hospital, with 
a pool of Bethesda attached to it. All the magnetisers were scandal- 
ised at the preposterous jabber of this old woman, and De Louther- 
bourg appears to have left London to avoid her, — continuing, how- 
ever, in conjunction with his wife, the fantastic tricks which had 
turned the brain of this poor fanatic, and deluded many others who 
pretended to more sense than she had. 

From this period until 1798 magnetism excited little or no atten- 
tion in England. An attempt to revive the belief in it was made in 



THE MAGNETISERS. 2Sd 

that jear, but it was in the shape of mineral rather than of animal 
magnetism. One Benjamin Douglas Perkins, an American, practis- 
ing as a surgeon in Leicester Square, invented and took out a patent 
for the celebrated '^Metallic Tractors." He pretended that these 
tractors, which were two small pieces of metal strongly magnetised, 
something resembling the steel plates which were first brought into 
notice bj Father Hell, would cure gout, rheumatism, palsy, and, in 
fact, almost every disease the human frame was subject to, if applied 
externally to the afflicted part, and moved about gently, touching the 
surface only. The most wonderful stories soon obtained general cir- 
culation, and the press groaned with pamphlets, all vaunting the cura- 
tive effects of the tractors, which were sold at ^ye guineas the pair. 
Perkins gained money rapidly. Gouty subjects forgot their pains in 
the presence of this new remedy ; the rheumatism fled at its approach ; 
and toothache, which is often cured by the mere sight of a dentist, 
vanished before Perkins and his marvellous steel-plates. The bene- 
volent Society of Friends, of whose body he was a member, warmly 
patroiiised the invention. Desirous that the poor, who could not 
afford to pay Mr. Perkins five guineas, or even five shillings for his 
tractors, should also share in the benefits of that sublime discovery, 
they subscribed a large sum, and built an hospital, called the '^ Per- 
kinean Institution," in which all comers might be magnetised free of 
cost» In the course of a few months they were in very general use, 
and their lucky inventor in possession of five thousand pounds. 

Dr« Haygarth, an eminent physician at Bath, recollecting the 
influence of imagination in the cure of disease, hit upon an expe- 
dient to try the real value of the tractors. Perkins's cures were too 
well established to be doubted; and Dr. Haygarth, without gain- 
saying them, quietly, but in the face of numerous witnesses, ex- 
posed the delusion under which people laboured with respect to the 
curative m^um. He suggested to Dr. Falconer that they should 
make wooden tractors, paint them to resemble the steel ones, and see 
if the very same effects would not be produced. Five patients were 
chosen from the hospital in Bath, upon whom to operate. Four of 
them suffered severely from chronic rheumatism in the ankle, knee, 
wrist, and hip ; and the fifth had been afflicted for several months 
with the gout. On the day appointed for the experiments Dr. Hay- 
garth and his friends assembled at the hospital, and with much 
solemnity brought forth the fictitious tractors. Four out of the five 
patients said their pains were immediately relieved; and three of 
them said they were not only relieved but very much benefited. One 
felt his knee warmer, and said he could walk across the room. He 
tried and succeeded, although on the previous day he had not been 

19 



290 EXTBAOBDINAET POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

able to stir. The gouty man felt his pains diminish rapidlj, and waa 
quite easy for nine hours, until he went to bed, when the twitching 
l^gan again. On the following day the real tractors were applied to 
all the patients, when they described their symptoms in nearly the 
s^one terms. 

To make still more sure, the experiment was tried in the ]&ristol 
infirmary, a few weeks afterwards, on a man who had a rheumatic 
affection in the shoulder, so severe as to incapacitate him from lifting 
his hand from his knee. The fictitious tractors were brought and 
s^plied. to the afflicted part, one of the physicians, to add solenuiity 
to the scene, drawing a stop-watch from his pocket to calculate the 
time exactly, while another, with a pen in his hand, sat down to 
write the change of symptoms firom minute to minute as they oc- 
curred. In less than four minutes the man felt so much relieved, 
that he lifted his hand several inches without any pain in the 
shoulder ! 

An account of these matters was published by Dr. Haygarth, in 
a small volume entitled. Of the ImagxTuAion^ as a Cause and Cure of 
JDisorderSy exemplified hy Fictitiotis Tractors. The exposure was a 
coup de grace to the system of Mr. Perkins. His friends and patrons, 
still unwilling to confess that they had been deceived, tried the trac- 
tors upon sheep, cows, and horses, alleging that the animals received 
benefit from the metallic plates, but none at all from the wooden 
ones. But they found nobody to believe them ; the Perkinean insti- 
tution fell into neglect ; and Perkins made his exit from England, 
carrying with him about ten thousand pounds, to soothe his declining 
years in the good city of Pennsylvania. 

Thus was magnetism laughed out of England for a time. In 
France the revolution left men no leisure for studying it. The 
Societes de VHarmonie of Strasbourg, and other great towns lin- 
gered for a while, till sterner matters occupying men's attention, they 
were one after the other abandoned, both by pupils and professors. 
The system, thus driven from the first two nations of Europe, took 
refuge among the dreamy philosophers of Germany. There the won- 
ders of the magnetic sleep grew more and more wonderful every day ; 
the patients acquired the gift of prophecy; their vision extended over 
all the surface of the globe ; they could hear and see with their toes 
and fingers, and read unknown languages, and understand them too, 
by merely having the book placed on their stomachs. Ignorant pea- 
sants, when once entranced by the grand mesmeric fluid, could spout 
philosophy diviner than Plato ever wrote, descant upon the myste- 
ries of the mind with more eloquence and truth than the profoundest 
metaphysicians the world ever saw, and solve knotty points of di- 



THE )CAGN£TIS£BS. 291 

vinity \nth as much ease as waking men could undo their shoe- 
buckles ! 

During the first twelve years of the present century little was heard 
of animal magnetism in any country of Europe. Even the Germans 
forgot their airy fancies, recalled to the knowledge of this every-day 
world by the roar of Napoleon's cannon and the fall or the establish- 
ment of kingdoms. During this period a cloud of obscurity hung over 
the science, which was not diq)ersed imtil M. Deleuze published, in 
1813, his HiMoire Critique du MagtiJ^tisme Animal, This work gave 
a new impulse to the half-forgotten fency. Newspapers, pamphlets, 
and books again waged war upon each other on the question of its 
truth or falsehood ; and many eminent men in the profession of 
medicine recommenced inquiry with an earnest design to discover the 
truth. 

The assertions made in the celebrated treatise of Deleuze are thus 
summed up :* " There is a fluid continually escaping from the human 
body," and " forming an atmosphere around us,'* which, as "it has 
no determined current," produces no sensible effects on surrounding 
individuals. It is, however, " capable of being directed by the will;" 
and, when so directed, " is sent forth in currents," with a force cor- 
responding to the energy we possess. Its motion is " similar to that 
of the rays from burning bodies ;" " it possesses different qualities in 
different individuals." It is capable of a high degree of concentra- 
tion, " and exists also in trees." The will of the magnetiser, " guided 
by a motion of the hand, several times repeated in the same direc- 
tion," can fill a tree with this fluid. Most persons, when this fluid is 
poured into them from the body and by the will of the magnetiser, 
"feel a sensation of heat or cold" when he passes his hand before 
them, without even touching them. Some persons, when sufficiently 
charged with this fluid, fall into a state of somnambulism, or magnetic 
ecstasy; and when in this state, "they see the fluid encircling the^ 
magnetiser like a halo of light, and issuing in luminous streams from 
his mouth and nostrils, his head and hands, possessing a very agree- 
able smell, and communicating a particular taste to food and water." 

One would think that these " notions" were quite enough to be 
insisted upon by any physician who wished to be considered sane ; 
but they form only a small portion of the wondrous things related by 
M. Deleuze. He further said, " When magnetism produces som- 
nambulism, the person who is in this state acquires a prodigious ex- 
tension of all his faculties. Several of his external organs, especially 
those of sight and hearing, become inactive ; but the sensations which 

* See the very clear, and dispassionate article upon the suhject in the fifth volume 
(1830) of The Foreign Meview, p. 96 et seq. 



292 EXTRAOBDINABY POPULAJt DELUSIONS. 

depend upon them take place internally. Seeing and hearing are 
carried on by the magnetic fluid, which transmits the impressions 
immediately, and without the intervention of any nerves or organs 
directly to the brain. Thus the somnambulist, though his eyes and 
ears are closed, not only sees and hears, but sees and hears much 
better than he does when awake. In all things he feels the will of 
the magnetiser, although that will be not expressed. He sees into 
the interior of his own body, and the most secret organisation of the 
bodies of all those who may be put en rapporty or in magnetic con- 
nexion, with him. Most commonly, he only sees those parts which 
are diseased and disordered, and intuitively prescribes a remedy for 
them. He has prophetic visions and sensations, which are generally 
true, but sometimes erroneous. He expresses himself with astonish- 
ing eloquence and facility. He is not free from vanity. He becomes 
a more perfect being of his own accord for a certain time, if guided 
wisely by the magnetiser, but wanders if he is ill-directed." 

According to M. Deleuze, any person could become a magnetiser 
and produce these effects, by conforming to the following conditions, 
and acting upon the following rules : 

" Forget for a while all your knowledge of physics and metaphysics. 

" Remove from your mind all objections that may occur. 

'^ Imagine that it is in your power to take the malady in hand, 
and throw it on one side. 

" ^ever reason for sia: weeks after you have commenced the stvdy. 

" Have an active desire to do good ; a firm belief in the power of 
magnetism, and an entire confidence in employing it. In short, repel 
all doubts ; desire success, and act with simplicity and attention." 

That is to say, " be very credulous ; be very persevering ; reject 
all past experience, and do not listen to reason," and you are a mag- 
netiser after M. Deleuze's own heart. 

Having brought yourself into this edifying state, "remove from 
the patient all persons who might be troublesome to you ; keep 
with you only the necessary witnesses — a single person if need be ; 
desire them not to occupy themi^lves in any way with the processes 
you employ and the effects which result from them, but to join with 
you in the desire of doing good to your patient. Arrange your- 
self so as neither to be too hot nor too cold, and in such a manner 
that nothing may obstruct the freedom of your motions ; and take 
precautions to prevent interruption during the sitting. Make your 
patient then sit as commodiously as possible, and place yourself 
opposite to him, on a seat a little more elevated, in such a manner 
that his knees may be betwixt yours, and your feet at the side of his. 
First, request him to resign himself; to think of nothing; not to 



THE MAGKETISEBS. 293 

petplez himself by examining the effects which may be produced ; to 
banish all fear ; to surrender himself to hope, and not to be disturbed 
or discouraged if the action of magnetism should cause in him mo- 
mentary pains. After having collected yourself, take his thumbs 
between your fingers in such a way that the internal part of your 
thumbs may be in contact with the internal part of his, and then 
fix your eye8 upon him ! You must remain from two to five minutes 
in this situation, or until you feel an equal heat between your 
thumbs and his. This done, you will withdraw your hands, re- 
moving them to the right and left ; and at the same time turning 
them till their internal surface be outwards, and you will raise them 
to the height of the head. You will now place them upon the two 
shoulders, and let them remain there about a minute; afterwards 
drawing them gently along the arms to the extremities of the fingers, 
touching very slightly as you go. You will renew this pass ^y^ or 
six times, always turning your hands, and removing them a little 
from the body before you lift them. You will then place them 
above the head ; and after holding them there for an instant, lower 
them, passing them before the face, at the distance of one or two 
inches, down to the pit of the stomach. There you will stop them 
two minutes also, putting your thumbs upon the pit of the stomach 
and the rest of your fingers below the ribs. You will then descend 
slowly along the body to the knees, or rather, if you can do so with- 
out deranging yourself, to the extremity of the feet. You will repeat 
the same processes several times during the remainder of the sitting. 
You will also occasionally approach your patient, so as to place your 
hands behind his shoulders, in order to descend slowly along the spine 
of the back and the thighs, down to the knees or the feet. After 
the first passes, you may dispense with putting your hands upon the 
head, and may make the subsequent passes upon the arms, beginning 
at the shoulders, and upon the body, beginning at the stomach." 

Such was the process of magnetising recommended by Deleuze. 
That delicate, fanciful, and nervous women,- when subjected to it, 
should have worked themselves into convulsions will be readily be- 
lieved by the sturdiest opponent of animal magnetism. To sit in a 
constrained posture — be stared out of countenance by a fellow who 
enclosed her knees between his, while he made passes upon different 
parts of her body, was quite enough to throw any weak woman into 
a fit, especially if she were predisposed to hysteria, and believed in 
the efficacy of the treatment. It is just as evident that those o 
stronger minds and healthier bodies e^ould be sent to sleep by the 
process. That these effects have been produced by these means, there 
are thousands of instances to shew. But are they testimony in favour 



294 EXTBAORDINABT POFULA& PELUSIONS. 

of animal magnetism ? — do they prove the existence of the magnetio 
fluid ? It needs neither magnetism, nor ghost from the grave, to 
tell us that silence, monotony, and long recumbency in one position, 
must produce sleep; or that excitement, imitation, and a strong ima- 
gination acting upon a weak body, will bring on convulsions. 

M. Peleuze's book produced quite a sensation in France; the 
study was resumed with redoubled vigour. In the following year, a 
journal was established devoted exclusively to the science, under the 
title oiAnnales du Magni^tisme Animal; and shortly afterwards ap- 
peared the BiUioMque du Magn^tisfnie Animal ^ and many others. 
About the same time, the Abb6 Faria, '^ the man of wonders," be- 
gan to magnetise ; and the belief being that he had more of the 
mesmeric fluid about him, and a stronger will, than most men, he 
was very successful in his treatment. His experiments afford a con- 
vincing proof that imagination can operate all, and the supposed 
fluid none, of the results so confidently claimed as evidence of the 
new science. He placed his patients in an arm-chair ; told them to 
shut their eyes; and then, in a loud commanding voice, pronounced 
the single word, " Sleep I" He used no manipulations whatever — 
had no bagttety or conductor of the fluid ; but he nevertheless succeeded 
in causing sleep in hundreds of patients. He boasted of having in 
his time produced five thousand somnambulists by this method. It 
was often necessary to repeat the command three or four times ; and 
if the patient still remained awake, the abb^ got out of the difficulty 
by dismissing Mm from the cMr, and declaring that he was incapa. 
ble of being acted on. And it should be especially remarked that the 
magnetisers do not lay claim to universal efficacy for their fluid ; the 
strong and the healthy cannot be magnetised; the incredulous cannot 
be magnetised; those^who reason upon it cannot be magnetised; 
those who firmly believe in it can be magnetised ; the weak in body 
can be magnetised, and the weak in mind can be magnetised. And 
lest, from some cause or other, individuals of the latter classes should 
resist the magnetic charm, the apostles of the science declare that 
there are times when even thet/ cannot be acted upon ; the presence 
of one scomer or unbeliever may weaken the potency of the fluid 
and destroy its efficacy. In M. Deleuze's instructions to a mag- 
netiser, he expressly says, " Never magnetise before inquisitive per- 
sons !"* 

Here we conclude the subject, as it would serve no good pur- 
pose to extend to greater length the history of Animal Magnetism ; 
especially at a time when many phenomena, the reality of which it 
is impossible to dispute, are daily occurring to startle and perplex the 

* Biatoire Critique du Moffnetitme AnivuUj p. 60. 



THE MAGNETISERS. 



295 



most learned, impartial, and truth-loving of mankind. Enough, how- 
ever, has been stated to shew, that if there be some truth in magne- 
tism, there has been much error, misconception, and exaggeration. 
Taking its history from the commencement, it can hardly be said to 
have been without its uses. To quote the words of BaiUy, in 1784, 
" Magnetism has not been altogether unavailing to the philosophy 
which condemns it : it is an additional feet to record among the errors 
of the human mind, and a great experiment on the strength of the 
imaginatipn." Over that vast inquiry of the influence of mind over 
matter, — an inquiry which the embodied intellect of mankind will 
never be able to fathom completely, — it will at least have thrown a 
feeble and imperfect light. It will have afforded an additional proof 
of the strength of the unconquerable will, and the weakness of matter 
as compared with it ; another illustration of the words of the inspired 
Psalmist, that "we are fearfully and wonderfully made.** 



c^<^-o^^xC5X:>^^ 



INFLUENCE OF POLITICS AND RELIGION 
HAIE AND BEARD. 



Both of the bebrd uid the beard' 1 owner, 

Hudibraa. 

Tbh famous declaration of St. Paul, "that long hair naa a ehame 
unto a man," has been made the pretext for many uugular enact- 
mentB, both of civil and eccle^astical govenunents. The fiishion of 
the hiur and the cut of the beard were state questions in France and 
England, from the establishment of Christianitj until the fifteenth 
century. 

We find, too, that in much earlier times, men were not permitted 
to do as they liked with their own hair. Alexander the Great thought 
that thn beards of the soldier; afforded convenient handles for the 
enemy to lay hold of, preparatory to cutting off their heads ; and, 
with a Tiew of depriving them of this advantage, he ordered the 
whole of his army to be closely shaven. His notions of courtesy 



THB HAIR A17D BEABD. 297 

towards an enemy were quite different from those entertained by the 
North American Indians, and amongst whom it is held a point of 
honour to allow one '^ chivalrous lock'' to grow, that the foe, in 
taking the scalp, may have something to catch hold of. 

At one time, long hair was the symbol of sovereignty in Europe. 
We lean) from Gregory of Tours, that, among the successors of Olovis, 
it was the exclusive privilege of the royal family to have their hair 
long and curled. The nobles, equal to kings in power, would not 
shew any inferiority in this respect, and wore not only their hair, 
but their beards of an enormous length. This fashion lasted, with 
but slight changes, till the time of Louis the Debonnaire ; but his 
successors, up to Hugh Capet, wore their hair short, by way of dis- 
tinction. Even the serfs had set all regulation at defiance, and allowed 
their locks and beards to grow. 

At the time of the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, 
the Normans wore their hair very short. Harold, in his progress 
towards Hastings, sent forward spies to view the strength and number 
of the enemy. They reported, amongst other things, on their return, 
that '^ the host did almost seem to be priests, because they had all 
their face and both their lips shaven." The fashion among the 
English at the time was to wear the hair long upon the head and the 
upper lip, but to shave the chin. When the haughty victors had 
divided the broad lands of the Saxon thanes and franklins among 
them, when tyranny of every kind was employed to make the English 
feel that they were indeed a subdued and broken nation, the latter 
encouraged the growth of their hair, that they might resemble as little 
as possible their cropped and shaven masters. 

This fashion was exceedingly displeasing to the clergy, and pre- 
vailed to a considerable extent in France and Germany. Towards 
the end of the eleventh century, it was decreed by the pope, and 
zealously supported by the ecclesiastical authorities all over Europe, 
that such persons as wore long hair should be excommunicated while 
living, and not be prayed for when dead. William of Malmesbury 
relates, that the famous St. Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester, was pecu- 
liarly indignant whenever he saw a man with long hair. He declaimed 
against the practice as one highly immoral, criminal, and beastly. He 
continually carried a small knife in his pocket, and whenever any 
body offending in this respect knelt before him to receive his bless- 
ing, he would whip it out slily, and cut off a handful, and then, 
throwing it in his face, tell him to cut off all the rest, or he would 
go to hell. 

But fashion, which at times it is possible to move with a wisp, 
stands firm against a lever ; and men preferred to run the risk of 



298 EXTBAOEDDTABT POPTJLAB DELTTSIONS. 

damnation to parting with the superfluity of their hair. In the time 
of Henry I., Ansehn, Archbishop of Canterbury, found it necessary 
to republish the famous decree of excommunication and outlawry 
against the offenders ; but, as the court itself had begun to patronise 
curls, the fulminations of the Church were unavailing. Henry I. and 
his nobles wore their hair in long ringlets down their backs and 
i^oulders, and became a acandcAv/m ma^vyatwm in the eyes of the 
godlj. One Serio, the king's chaplain, was so grieved in spirit at the 
impiety of his master, that he preached a sermon from the well-known 
text of St. Paul before the assembled court, in which he drew so 
dreadful a picture of the torments that awaited them in the other 
world, that seversd of them burst into tears, and wrung their hair, as 
if tiiey wotdd have pulled it out by the roots, Heniy himself was 
observed to weep. The priest, seeing the impression he had made, 
determined to strike while the iron was hot, and puUing a pair of 
edssors from his pocket, cut the king's hair in presence of them all. 
Several of the principal courtiers consented to do the like, and for a 
short time long hair appeared to be going out of fashion. But the 
courtiers thought, after the first glow of their penitence had been 
cooled by reflection, that the clerical Delilah had shorn them of their 
fltreagth, and in less than six months they were as great sinners as 
ever, 

Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been a monk of 
Bee, in Normandy^ and who had signalised himself at Eouen by his 
fi^^e opposition to long hair, was still anxious to work a reformation 
in this n[iatter. But his pertinacity was far fh)m pleasing to the 
king, who had finally made up his mind to Wear ringlets. There 
were other disputes, of a more serious nature, between them ; so that 
when the archbishop died, the king was so glad to be rid of him, that 
he allowed the see to remain vacant for five years. €till the cause 
had other advocates, and every pulpit in the land resounded with 
anathemas against that disobedient and long-haired generation. But 
all Was of no avail. Btowe, in writing of this period, asserts, on the 
authority of some more ancient chronicler, '' that men^ forgetting 
their birth, transformed themselves, by the length of their hulres, into 
the semblance of woman kind;" and that when their hair decayed 
from age, or other causes, '^ they knit about their heads cMain rolls 
and braidings of fiEdse hair.** At last accident turned the tide of 
fashion. A knight of the court, who was exceedingly proud of his 
beauteous locks, dreamed one night that, as he lay iii bed, the devil 
sprang upon him, and endeavoured to choke him with his own hair. 
He started in affright, and actually found that he had a great quantity 
of hair in his mouth. Sorely stricken in conscience, and looking 



THE HAIB JlSH BEASD. 299 

upon the dream as a warning from heaven, he set about the work of 
reformation, and cut off his luxuriant tresses the same night. The 
story was soon bruited abroad ; of course it was made the most of by 
the clergy, and the knight, being a man of influence and consider- 
ation, and the acknowledged leader of the fashion, his example, aided 
by priestly exhortations, was very generally imitated. Men appeared 
almost as decent as St. Wulstan himself could have wished, the dream 
of a dandy having proved more efficacious than the entreaties of a 
saint. But, as Stowe informs us, ^' scarcely was one year past, when 
all that thought themselves courtiers fell into the former vice, and 
contended with women in their long haires." Henry, the king, ap- 
pears to have been quite uninfluenced by the dreams of others, for 
even his own would not induce him a second time to undergo a crop- 
ping from priestly shears. It is said, that he was much troubled at 
this time by disagreeable visions. Having offended the Church in this 
and other reqpects, he could get no sound, refreshing sleep, and used 
to imagine that he saw all the bishops, abbots, and monks of every 
d^;ree, standing around his bed-side, and threatening to belabour 
him with their pastoral staves; which sight, we are told, so frightened 
him^ that he often started naked out of his bed, and attacked the phan- 
toms sword in hand. Grimbalde, his physician, who, like most of his 
fraternity at that day, was an ecclesiastic, never hinted that his 
dreams were the result of a bad digestion, but told him to shave his 
head, be reconciled to the Church, and reform himself with alms and 
prayer. But he would not take this good advice, and it was not until 
he had been nearly drowned a year afterwards, in a violent storm at 
sea, that he repented of his evil ways, cut his hair shorti and paid 
proper deference to the wishes of the clergy. 

In France, the thunders of the Vatican with regard to long curly 
hair were hardly more respected than in England. Louis YII., how- 
ever, was more obedient than his brother-king, and cropped himself 
as closely as a monk, to the great sorrow of all the gallants of his 
court. His queen, the gay, haughty, and pleasure-seeking Eleanor of 
Guienne, never admired him in this trim, and continually reproached 
him with imitating, not only the head-dress, but the asceticism of the 
monks. From this cause a coldness arose between them. The lady 
proving at last unfaithful to her shaven and indifferent lord, they were 
divorced, and the kings of France lost the rich provinces of Guienne 
and Poitou, which were her dowry. She soon after bestowed her 
hand and her possessions upon Henry Duke of Normandy, afterwards 
Henry II. of England, and thus gave the English sovereigns that 
strong footing in France which was for so many centuries the cause 
of such long and bloody wars between the nations. 



300 EXTRAOBDINABT FOFULAB DELUSIONS. 

When the Crusades had drawn all the smart young fellows into 
Palestine, the clergy did not find it so difficult to convince the staid 
burghers who remained in Europe, of the enormity of long hair. 
During the absence of Richard Oosur de Lion, his English subjects 
not only cut their hair close, but shaved their faces. William Eitz- 
osbert, or Long-beard, the great demagogue of that day, reintroduced 
among the people who claimed to be of Saxon origin the fashion of 
long hair. He did this with the view of making them as unlike as 
possft^le to the citizens and the Normans. He wore his own beard 
hanging down to his waist, from whence the name by which he is best 
known to posterity. 

The Church never shewed itself so great an enemy to the beard as 
to long hair on the head. It generally allowed fashion to take its own 
course, both with regard to the chin and the upper lip. This fashion 
varied continually ; for we find that, in little more than a century 
after the time of Richard I., when beards were short, that they had 
again become so long as to be mentioned in the famous epigram made 
by the Scots who visited London in 1327, when David, son of Robert 
Bruce, was married to Joan, the sister of Kiug Edward. This epigram, 
which was stuck on the church-door of St. Peter Stangate, ran as 
follows ; 

'' Long beards heartlesse^ 

Painted hoods witlesse. 

Gray coats gracelesse. 

Make England thrifblesse." 

When the Emperor Charles V. ascended the throne of Spain he 
had no beard. It was not to be expected that the obsequious para- 
sites who always surround a monarch, could presume to look more 
virile than their master. Immediately all the courtiers appeared 
beardless, with the exception of such few grave old men as had out- 
grown the influence of fashion, and who had determined to die 
bearded as they had lived. Sober people in general saw this revolu- 
tion with sorrow and alarm, and thought that every manly virtue 
would be banished with the beard. It became at the time a common 
saying,—. 

" Desde que no bay barba^ no bay mas alma.*' 
We have no longer souls since we have lost our beards. 

In France also the beard fell into disrepute after the death of 
Heniy lY., from the mere reason that his successor was too young to 
have one. Some of the more immediate friends of the great Beamais, 
and his minister Sully among the rest, refused to part with their 
beards, notwithstanding the jeers of the new generation. 



THE Eim ASD H F.inp . 301 

Who does not remember the divieioii of England into the two 
great parties of Roundheads wid Cavaliers I In those days every 
species of vice and iniquity was thought by the Puritans to lurk in 
the long ciu-Iy tresses of the monarchists, while the latter imagmed 
that their opponents were as destitute of wit, of wisdom, and of virtue, 
OS they were of hair. A man's locks were the symbol of his creed, 
both in politics and religion. The more abundant the hair, the 
more scant the Mth ; and the balder the head, the more sincere the 
piety. 

_ But among all the instances of the interference of governments 
with men's hair, the most extraordinary, not only for its daring, but 
for its auocess, is that of Peter 
the Qreat, in 1705. By this time 
bshion had condemned the beard 
in every other country in Europe, 
and with a voice more potent than 
popes or emperors, had banished 
it from civilised society. But this 
only made the RuB»ans cling more 
fondly to their ancient ornament, 
as a mark to distinguish them from 
foreigners, whom they hated. Pe- 
ter, however, resolved that they 
should be shaven. If be had been 
a man deeply read in history, he 

might have hesitated before he at- ,,1,, ,., u,.,. 

tempted so despotic an attack upon 

the time-hallowed ouatoma and prejudices of his countiTmen ; but he 
was not. He did not know or consider the danger of the innovation ; 
he only listened to the promptings of his own indomitable will, and 
his fiat went forth, that not only the army, but all ranks of citizens, 
from the nobles to the serfs, should shave their beards. A certain 
time was given, that people might get over the first throes of their 
repugnance, after which every man who chose to retain his beard was 
to pay a tax of one hundred roubles. The priests and the serfs were 
put on a lower footing, and allowed to retain theirs upon payment of 
a copeck every time they passed the gate of a city. Great discontent 
existed in consequence, but the dreadful fate of the Strelitzes was too 
recent to be forgotten, and thousands who had the will had not the 
courage to revolt. As is well remarked by a writer in the Encydo- 
pcedia BriCannica, they thought it wiser to cut off their beards than 
to run the risk of incensing a man who would make no scruple in 
cutting o£f their heads. Wiser, too, than the popes and bishops of a 



■ y 

r 



y 



302 EXTBAOBJ)INAKY POPULAR DELUSIONS. 

former age, he did not threaten them with eternal damnation, but 
made them pay in hard cash the penalty of their disobedience. For 
many years, a very considerable revenue was collected from this 
source. The collectors gave in receipt for its payment a small cop- 
per coin, struck expressly for the purpose, and called the '^ boro- 
dovdia,** or ** the bearded." On one side it bore the figure of a nose, 
mouth, and moustaches, with a long bushy beard, surmounted by 
the words, ^^Btuyee Vyeatee" " money received ;" th« whole encircled 
by a wreath, and stamped with the black eagle of Russia. On the 
reverse, it bore the date of the year. Every man who chose to wear 
a beard was obliged to produce this receipt on his entiy into a town. 
Those who were refractory, and refused to pay the tax, were thrown 
into prison. 

Since that day, the rulers of modem Europe have endeavoured to 
persuade, rather than to force, in all matters pertaining to fashion. 
The Yaticaib troubles itself no more about beards or ringlets, and men 
may become hairy as bears, if such is their fancy, without fear of 
excommunication or deprivation of their political rights. Folly has 
taken a new start, and cultivates the moustache. 

Even upon this point governments will not let men alone. Reli- 
gion as yet has not meddled with it ; but perhaps it will ; and poli- 
tica already influence it considerably. Before the revolution of 1830, 
neither the French nor Belgian citizens were remarkable for their 
moustaches j baufc, after that event, there was hardly a shopkeeper 
either in Paris or Brussels whose upper lip did not suddenly become 
hairy with real or mock moustaches. During a temporary triumph 
gained by the Dutch soldiers over the citizens of Louvain, in October 
1830, it became a standing joke against the patriots, that they shaved 
their faces clean immediately ; and the wits of the Dutch army as- 
serted that they had gathered moustaches enough from the denuded 
lips of the Belgians to stufT mattresses for aU the sick and wounded 
in their hospital. 

The last folly of this kind is stiU more recent. In the German 
newspapers, of August 1838, appeared an ordonnance, signed by the 
king of Bavaria, forbidding civilians, on any pretence whatever, to 
wear moustaches, and commanding the police and other authorities 
to arrest, and cause to be shaved, the offending parties. ^' Strange 
to say," adds Le Droits the journal from which this account is taken, 
" moustaches disappeared immediately, like leaves from the trees in 
autumn ; every body made haste to obey the royal order, and not one 
person was arrested." 

The king of Bavaria, a rhymester of some celebrity, has taken a 
good many poetical licences in his time. His licence in this matter 



appean neither poetic&l nor reasonable. It is to be hoped that he 
will not take it into his ro^al head to make his Eubjects Bha,ve theirs ; 
nothing but that is wanting to complete their degradation. 



a Tapetlrj.— See awe, p. 



END OF VOL, I,